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The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 116 minutes

OK for children.

What to make of this? If I wanted to be charitable, I guess I could say that itís a satire on a satire on a satire. The Bond films are all satires of thrillers and there have been satires of the Bond films. This one is so bad I canít help but think that perhaps itís intended as camp, a satire of the Bond satires.

Alas, that is too convoluted to be credible. I think they were serious. I really think that they were making a Bond-like film that took a humorous view of actioners and cold war films.

First of all, the director is Guy Ritchie (who also wrote the awful script, which lacks as much as one line that could even barely raise a chuckle, with Lionel Wigram). Heís responsible for those Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes films which are such dispiriting schlock. This is even worse than those.

Henry Cavill (Superman in Man of Steel) as Napoleon Solo is way beyond his range in trying to portray a suave man of action full of bon mots (Not!). Robert Vaughn, who created the role in the 1964-68 TV series, he is not. Vaughn had a way about him; Cavill doesnít.

Similarly, David McCullum was unique and almost irreplaceable as the Russian Illya Kuryakin.  Armie Hammerís Illya is wooden and rote without a single redeeming feature.

Worse (yes, Virginia, it gets worse), thereís absolutely no chemistry between the two. This is supposed to be a buddy film between two adversaries who compete but actually respect and like one another. This can work if you have two accomplished actors and a good script and director. Sean Connery and Michael Caine created electricity between them in 1975ís The Man Who Would Be King written and directed by John Huston from a novella by Rudyard Kipling. But the chemistry between Hammer and Cavill is akin to that between wood and stone.

What is really disappointing for me is the appearance of Alicia Vikander. I have loved her in her last three films that Iíve seen. As far as Iím concerned, she is the best actress alive. What is she doing in junk like this (I know; money)? Her role is extremely limited, more for the type of women who play Bond Girls, not something for an actress of her talent, beauty, and range. Her role requires not an iota of talent to portray. Her character is just there, little more than a McGuffin. She shouldnít be slumming like this. On the positive side, her wardrobe is spectacular.

The film ends with what is clearly a message that a sequel is coming. God forbid!