Courtesy of warnerbros.com
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is a bit of a misleading title. For starters, there’s more than one man in a leading role. Secondly, who or what is U.N.C.L.E.? A spy organization? A coalition force? A men’s fashion line? You would think that from all the suits they put Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in.
A re-imagining of the ‘60s television series of the same name, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” puts Superman, Hammer and the android from “Ex Machina” together for an adventure in Rome to find a nuke and find the android’s father. Superman (or Cavill, in case any of you actually remember the guy from “Superman Returns”) plays the American spy Napoleon Solo and Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin, his Russian counterpart. As much as I’d like to refer to Mr. Hammer as the Lone Ranger, let’s be honest, none of you saw that movie.
Kuryakin is certainly a pleasant fellow for a dirty commie. He delivers one-liners without camp, gets the job done efficiently and has a goddamn laser that would make that other guy named Solo jealous. Solo, on the other hand, is an asshole. During their first conversation, Kuryakin tells Solo, “You used to be a thief and you got caught,” to which Solo replies, “Oh yeah? Well, your dad’s in a gulag and your mother’s a whore.” If Kuryakin went and shot him in the face right then and there, I probably would have given the screen a thumbs-up.
Solo is also a terrible spy. When he drinks a glass of scotch offered by the villainess, you know it’s spiked. The rest of the theater knows it’s spiked. The cockroaches waiting to come out and eat the spilled popcorn know it’s spiked. If there are characters in children’s cartoons that can tell when they’ve been given laced beverages, why can’t the CIA’s supposedly-best agent? It’s amazing that this amateur can even fire a gun or unhook a bra without hurting himself.
The movie’s strengths lie more in its humor than its generic plot. Most of that humor comes from the spies being jerks to each other and pretty much everyone they come into contact with, from flamboyant Italians who have decided that sinks are good substitutes for chairs to the Nazi torturer who spends three minutes too long reminding us that he is a Nazi torturer. “Damn, I left my jacket in there,” Solo remarks from behind a window as the German scientist goes up in flames.
The plot does however manage to salvage itself somewhat in the form of Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander, whom we think we have figured out right from the start, only to realize later that she’s had both us and the spies fooled, which is humiliating in hindsight considering that a drunk seventh-grader could probably outwit Solo).
But Miss Teller’s ambiguous nature doesn’t make up for the fact that the film’s ending is a dull mess; the big action scene is clumsily packed into a montage, followed by an underwhelming chase scene and a quick bit on an aircraft carrier that practically plays twice when it goes back and reminds you what happened ten seconds ago.
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is not thrilling, and it’s not as gloriously self-aware as “Kingsman.” It’s only mildly entertaining, with enough humor and fun moments to make up for its lackluster plot. Probably its greatest accomplishment is saving Hammer’s career by having him overtake the leading actor (which is precisely what Johnny Depp did to him in “The Lone Ranger”).
Alex Wehrung is patiently waiting for James Bond to show Guy Ritchie who’s boss.