Guy Ritchie possesses enough gravitas in Hollywood to get any film he wants greenlit. When you successfully relaunch Sherlock Holmes into a viable franchise, that kind of power comes your way.
However, when and how to use it should have been the questions of the day when choosing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as his latest cinematic endeavor which opens for sneak previews tonight (Aug. 13) and wide Friday (Aug. 14).
Why? Well, given that it’s an adaptation of a relatively obscure ‘’60s-era TV series that starred two guys that only the most avid of fans would remember, no reason. That puts it at a disadvantage right there, right?
Or maybe Ritchie recognizes those things about U.N.C.L.E. and he welcomes the challenge of bringing it out of that shadows and putting his stamp on the property, giving himself another toy with which to work.
That’s wily, crafty and bold. However, despite his best efforts he doesn’t quite pull it off. What he’s created is a film filled with plenty of ’60s style, but is avoid of zip for most of its run time.
It’s difficult to pin down where that particular problem emanates. Is it the casting? Or is it the script?
Generally speaking, both Armie Hammer (J. Edgar) and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), playing the principal characters Ilya and Solo, respectively, have delivered enjoyable performances in other films, but in U.N.C.L.E. the necessary chemistry never really develops. That criticism includes the other member of their trio, Gaby (Alicia Vikander of Ex Machina). Nice actors, with surprisingly inert interactions in a spy film. Go figure.
Ilya and Solo are thrown together by the Russian and U.S. governments at the height of the Cold War and nervousness regarding the nuclear bomb. They, along with Gaby whose father has been kidnapped to work on developing a bomb for a wealthy, politically extreme couple, are tasked with finding it and delivering it to their bosses. Yes, that’s going to be easy.
In the process, action and humor is supposed to ensue based on the character conflicts. Ilya’s being that he’s a hothead with mommy issues and Solo’s being that he’s been forced to work for the U.S. because of past transgressions and doesn’t seem to really want any part of what he’s assigned to do.
Ritchie and his production designer deserve praise for giving U.N.C.L.E. that ‘’60s era vibe, but everything else suffers. The humor is too dry. The characters’ interaction doesn’t help that fact and the film tends to plod along for most of its run time.
Of course, none of that may ultimately matter given The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an origin film and it may possess enough of a curiosity factor to draw domestic and internationals audiences thus creating the want for a sequel. Perhaps then Ritchie tie it all together.
Movie: The Man from U.N.C.L.E
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Hugh Grant
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity
Running time: 116 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com