Posted on January 11, 2016
As a James Bond fan, I’ve always preferred my spy thrillers to be both humorous and thrilling. Having spent the war in Naval Intelligence, Ian Fleming understood that actual spy craft is a 90/10 mix of tedium and excitement and that for entertainment’s purposes, it’s best to boil the story down to the funny and somewhat plausible anecdotes rather than to belabor the months of intricate work and plans that got you there.
Cold War era television was fertile ground for this kind of show and I loved them all. Danger Man, The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Saint and, of course, The Man From UNCLE. In Napoleon Solo, the US finally had a spy as suave as James Bond and, as a bonus, who wouldn’t want a cold blooded Soviet assassin as a sidekick? Plus, we got to see the major cold war powers working together against groups we both felt were even more dangerous than each other.
Having established my Fangoria cred for The Man from UNCLE, let’s change channels to Guy Ritchie. I’m a fan. I loved both versions of Snatch. I also loved RocknRolla and his takes on Sherlock Holmes. I’ve even found it in my heart to forgive him for Swept Away. And I’m a former film student who was in love with Lina Wertmuller. I blame that misstep on Madonna. I’ve never cared for her. She turned music videos into Cats.
He has a visually arresting cinematic style. In a way, it’s kind of cubist. He’s fascinated by the interior workings of things that happen too fast to see with the naked eye. He knows how to fill a frame without making it too artsy-sparse or cramming it to the edges — something that only Wes Anderson can really get away with. Best of all, he tells a fast story. You do not have time to go out for a ciggie once GR takes the reins.
He knows color, composition and dramatic punctuation. AND he has a good sense of humor. All these things are on tap in Man From UNCLE, a movie that has a 76 percent fan rating on RT and a 7.4 on IMDB. Why do I have such a chip on my shoulder for a movie that made over a hundred million dollars in theaters? Because those are pity tickets.
The Man From UNCLE should have made five times that much. A hundred million bucks only accounts for people who loved the old show, Guy Ritchie fans, Henry Caville fans, people who are still rooting for Armie Hammer to hit a home run, and people who couldn’t get a ticket for some other show that was sold out.
It’s a funny movie. It’s a classic buddy cop story. It’s a sexy crime thriller. it’s a perfect date movie. It’s got something for everyone. The trailer was enticing and clever and the film paid off on the trailer. So why did no one come to see it?
Man, if I knew that, I’d be the king of Hollywood. I predict it will do very well on DVD/Demand/Streaming. Quality has a way of seeking its own level.
Do yourself a favor, go watch it.