Guy Ritchie

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015, Guy Ritchie)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is surprisingly okay. Who knew Guy Ritchie would come up with such an interesting way of doing a spy movie. Sorry, a super-spy movie. It’s not an espionage movie, it’s a James Bond movie, only not. Because Ritchie isn’t anywhere near as interested in set pieces as he is how he presents them. There’s no gee whiz factor to U.N.C.L.E.’s special effects sequences. Ritchie wants the audience to pay attention to the characters.

And the characters are a lot of fun and most of the performances in the film are nearly excellent. All of them are good, even the smaller parts. U.N.C.L.E is just too self-aware, just too cute for the actors to ever transcend the material. Instead, they just revel in said material.

The standout for that reveling is Armie Hammer. While Henry Cavill has a great time playing a lovable cad, there’s not much acting involved. Hammer holds a Russian accent and sells the idea the viewer is supposed to take him seriously as a threat. He’s one of the film’s heroes and he needs to be believable as a threat. It’s a neat trick and surprisingly ambitious in a popcorn movie.

U.N.C.L.E.’s other strong performances are the female leads (Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki) and then Jared Harris, who chews the scenery as a master spy.

A great period soundtrack, beautifully set to the sequences, helps a lot.

The film’s a perfectly reasonable effort. Ritchie’s found his (mainstream) niche.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Ritchie; screenplay by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, based on a story by Jeff Kleeman, David C. Wilson, Ritchie and Wigram and the television series created by Sam Rolfe; director of photography, John Mathieson; edited by James Herbert; music by Daniel Pemberton; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by John Davis, Steve Clark-Hall, Kleeman and Wigram; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Henry Cavill (Solo), Armie Hammer (Illya), Alicia Vikander (Gaby), Elizabeth Debicki (Victoria), Luca Calvani (Alexander), Sylvester Groth (Uncle Rudi), Jared Harris (Sanders), Christian Berkel (Udo), Misha Kuznetsov (Oleg) and Hugh Grant (Waverly).


Sherlock Holmes (2009, Guy Ritchie)

Ok, so… is Robert Downey Jr. ever going to be in a serious movie again? He’s the new Johnny Depp (serious indie actor turned blockbuster star for hire). Anyway. Sherlock Holmes.

Let’s see. Guy Ritchie can direct. Who knew? Maybe he just needed Joel Silver to rein him in. Good Hans Zimmer music. Good Jude Law sidekick performance. Awful Rachel McAdams (I really wish they’d killed her off so she couldn’t come back). Mark Strong is one of the worst villain “heavies” I’ve ever seen. Love how he’s dressed like a Nazi with a Nazi hairdo and a plan to invade the States. But whatever, one doesn’t see Sherlock Holmes for the script (not when the script gives Strong’s bastard character a lordship).

Unfortunately, Downey’s performance, while engaging and charismatic, is really nothing more than an athletic aping of Jeremy Brett’s Holmes and Downey’s own Chaplin (for the accent). There’s never a moment one doesn’t think a British actor couldn’t have done a superior job.

The film’s pretty simple to describe: it’s a well-produced League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s also directly informed by “House,” which is inspired by Holmes‘s source material. It’s exceptionally unoriginal in its relationship between Downey and Law, but all the writing is pretty lame so it doesn’t matter much.

It’s a fine non-summer blockbuster. It discourages any intellectual involvement, it has a decent, “I hope there’s a sequel” ending. Too bad Downey’s become such a boring actor.

Hopefully it’ll get people to see Chaplin.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Ritchie; written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Johnson and Lionel Wigram and characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by James Herbert; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Sarah Greenwood; produced by Wigram, Joel Silver, Susan Downey and Dan Lin; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood), Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade), Robert Maillet (Dredger), Geraldine James (Mrs. Hudson), Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan), William Houston (Constable Clark), Hans Matheson (Lord Coward), James Fox (Sir Thomas) and William Hope (Ambassador Standish).


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