Sunday, August 23, 2015

Suave Lethal Weapons

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer bicker in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the latest from director Guy Ritchie. They bicker a heckuva lot.

In fact, they argue so much (in an early posh-shop scene that they – two stylish men in their own right – share with Alicia Vikander, they discuss her outfits-to-be, enthusiastically, knowingly weighing the pros and cons of a number of frocks) that you wouldn’t be far off in thinking the two are having a lovers’ spat. They’re that obstinate about their feelings about the dresses and, by proxy, about each other. And in a different moment beyond-ripe with plenty o double entendres, they mindlessly discuss who’ll take top and who’ll take bottom.

Lest you think the actors are playing a pair of old queens and that Vikander is their long-suffering fruit fly, I should say they are not, and she is not. This is a spy movie, not The (Male) Spy Who Shagged the Other (Male) Spy.

Cavill is Napoleon Solo, a disgraced soldier-turned-thief-turned suave CIA agent, while Hammer portrays Russian discipline and methodology as KGB agent Illya Kuryakin. Needless to say, these handsome, oh-so-well-tailored spies do not see eye to eye (that top-bottom discussion pertains to them cracking a doubly secured door).

Set in the early the Cold War-era against a fashion-forward Swinging Sixties backdrop, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the long-gestating adaptation of the 1960s cult NBC show, sees Solo and Kuryakin put aside their differences to team up in order to stop an international criminal organization led by the slinky, smokey-eyed Victoria Vinciguerra (The Great Gatsby’s Elizabeth Debicki) from getting her well-manicured hands on some nuclear tech and weaponry that would upset the balance of power in the world. The key to stopping this plot is Vikander’s Gaby Teller, a mechanic from East Berlin (aah...that’s what they guys were doing – they were giving Gaby a makeover!), and her will to collaborate is seemingly hanging by a very thin thread.

Exquisitely produced (the movie’s art direction and its production design shall give ya major Tom Ford-meets-W magazine vibes, and Hammer and Cavill, especially, while surprisingly bland, at least, look the part of two super-spies with a penchant for the globetrotting life of an international man of mystery), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was originally conceived as a vehicle for Tom Cruise, who pulled out to go chase a bad guy in a Rogue Nation, and it shows. More than thrice I found myself watching Cavill recite lines clearly meant for the Cruiseter and thinking about it and about how different this movie would have felt and been had Cruise not dropped out.

Those gay undertones would not have been there, that’s for sure.

Here’s the thing: The entire proposition also would have been entirely more enjoyable.

Cruise doesn’t really do boring, and while Cavill and Hammer are imposing presences, they also display the charisma of day-old toast. They may be impeccably confectioned in that they look like men, and like men who like, Esquire their lives, you know what I mean. But they are uninteresting, and without the gay they’d be nothing.

My Rating **

Photo: Warner Bros.

No comments: