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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The "Mad Men" from U.N.C.L.E.

Director Guy Ritchie adapts another popular '60s spy show for the big screen in ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ (acronym for "United Network Command for Law and Enforcement").  It's hard to believe, I know, but while I'm familiar enough with its contemporaries 'I Spy' and 'Mission Impossible,' I’ve never seen this television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.  Nonetheless, the big screen treatment showed much promise, and in any event I like Cold War “spy-versus-spy” games of the groovy ‘60s being a fan of the Sean Connery James Bond flicks.
 
Henry Cavill (‘Man of Steel’) and Armie Hammer (‘The Lone Ranger’) are younger versions of U.N.C.L.E. operatives Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, respectively, as the erstwhile enemies across the Iron Curtain are recruited to prevent a nuclear bomb from falling into the wrong hands.  The wrong hands in this case are the finely manicured clutches of high society socialite Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), matriarch to a surviving clan of Mussolini fascists in Rome.  Our reluctant allies are joined by Gaby Teller, daughter of the physicist kidnapped to build the portable nuclear device, who may have her own secret agenda and is played by sexy Swedish actress Alicia Vikander whom you may remember from her role as Ava, the too-human AI who masterfully played Domhnall Gleeson in ‘Ex Machina.’
 
Cavill’s Napoleon Solo is a smooth talking (or rather, droning) playboy in the vein of James Bond as played by Roger Moore.  His casual nonchalance lends him a certain air of unflappability, to be sure, but also makes him a bore.   Not to be outdone, Armie Hammer’s Illya Kuryakin is a newsboy-wearing KGB tight-ass whose faux Russian accent is painful to the ears and about as convincing as his wooden acting.  While the two may be perfect fodder on the covers of ‘GQ’ and ‘Esquire,’ interesting characters they do not make.  Sadly, TMFU is also saddled with a clichéd plot, action scenes that lack zip, and the frequent split-screens are distracting even if they were a nostalgic nod to the TV show.  The movie's lone saving grace is the lovely eye-candy Vikander but, alas, even she cannot lift TMFU from the depths of mediocrity.
 
Grade: B-
 
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