If The Lone Ranger taught us one thing it's that movie adaptations of really old TV shows starring Armie Hammer just aren't worth it.
Now here comes The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in an attempt to correct this assumption.
The classic Robert Vaughn-starring series, out of which a few TV movies were born back in the day, gets a full makeover courtesy of director Guy Ritchie who recently enough gave us a couple of action-packed, surprisingly fun Sherlock Holmes movies.
The appropriately retro opening titles sequence along with a thrilling car chase quickly sell us on the idea that this Man From U.N.C.L.E. is in safe hands. Indeed, the film continues to look slick and stay smooth throughout with its fancy split-screens and its classily kitsch 60's costumes. Plus the two leads are competent, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer both giving reliably solid performances, and the same can be said for Alicia Vikander, who plays a central component of the U.S. and the Soviet Union's big mission. Even the plot is promising: Cavill and Hammer are rivals having to work together against a common enemy.
So why is this not a better film than it is?
And why does one feel that it soon will be completely forgotten if it hasn't already?
Here we have a film that looks good, is well put together by a reliable director and stars a lot of competent people and yet it falls just short. Part of the problem could just be that most people don't remember the series that well but then again, it's not like Ritchie goes out of his way to make the film just like the show. In fact, he seems to go out of his way to make The Man From U.N.C.L.E. into a Quentin Tarantino movie! Nearly every scene seems to begin or end with an Ennio Morricone-style Western theme playing loudly over some kind of montage, something which frankly gets quickly tiring. With the exception of, obviously, Swept Away, this is quite probably the least Guy Ritchie Guy Ritchie film out there because of that.
Another problem is the plot which hooks you in then lets you dangle for a long while before popping up again near the end. There's a good portion of time when characters are investigating, interacting or just trying to be cute that's nowhere near as involving as it should be. The film definitely stagnates in between action sequences. Luckily, the latter are pretty darn cool. One sequence is particularly inspired as Henry Cavill purposely sits out the action to have a picnic as Armie Hammer is boat-chased by a bunch of bad guys right outside the door. Otherwise you've got some fun chases in there and a tense encounter between Cavill and a main villain which ends with a truly brilliant sight gag. Unfortunately, the film stumbles in its third act delivering not one but several endings and not in a loveable, clever Wayne's World way, more like in a tedious Return Of The King type of deal.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is not a bad film. In fact, it has a lot going for it and it can be a lot of fun when it gets going. Its uneven pacing, sadly, gives it an overall sluggish feel while Ritchie's full-on "Tarantinian" over-stylisation and those silly accents the cast is stuck with go for charming but don't convince. The script needed to be tighter, funnier and less predictable for this to stand up as a franchise worth reviving.
Decent yet forgettable.