The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Viewed – 08 December 2015  Online rental

It’s not often a movie wows and disappoints in almost equal measure.  However this 60s set spy adaptation of the popular TV series of yesteryear did just that.  Director Guy Ritchie’s take on the spy genre is rich in an authentic 60s look and feel complete with impeccable editing, cinematography and imagery straight out of a cigarette commercial or a Jean-Luc Godard classic.  From the costumes, the cars, the gadgets and even the choices of music, the look of this movie is fantastic.  Almost any shot in this could be framed and hung on the wall of a high brow art critic’s home.

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However at it’s core is a fairly typical spy yarn that feels fairly dated and straight out of the setting the movie so richly explores … fitting, but a bit lacking ideas we haven’t seen in a ton of Bond movies or said TV show.  The bad guys are also rather bland, sadly.  Yet Ritchie picks from all his tried and tested directing skills: snappy, clever split-screen moments, some fun action sequences (bar a fairly annoying dune buggy chase) and plenty of well observed humour.  Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill steals the show as the swarve and brilliantly named Napoleon Solo; a CIA agent who is forced to team up with a KGB agent (Social Network’s equally likeable Armie Hammer).  Their pairing makes for much of the entertainment as the agents squabble, try and out wit one another and help a gorgeous French girl track down her bomb-making father who is working for a couple of terrorists.

Man-from-Uncle-Movie-Yet with such fun odd-couple banter and movie making flashiness comes a story that twists and double deals and confuses throughout (not helped by a ton of subtitles that again, are presented in a very stylish manner) … leaving this viewer often not entirely sure what was going on.  It all gets a lot clearer in the final moments but by then my head was spinning.  Seriously, this movie’s style actually distracted me from the plot, the characters and well, everything.  Call it style over substance if you like, but this stumbled when it really should have flown.  Sort of like a very attractive woman who blinds you from the fact she just lifted your wallet.  I admired it on a purely artistic scale, and was well cast mostly, but that doesn’t mean it completely won me over.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows


Viewed – 26 May 2012  Blu-ray

The first Sherlock Homes movie I really enjoyed, as although looking back the casting of Robert Downey Jr didn’t seem obvious at first, I was pleased to see his chameleon-like acting skills suited the part immensely, helped by an equally adept Jude Law as Dr Watson.  So sitting down to another escapade with this likable duo was easy.  This one has Holmes and Watson up against their greatest ever foe, Professor Moriarty (a brilliant Jared Harris) who seems behind a series of bombings and assassination attempts.  Holmes leaps into action to piece the clues together and sets forth on an adventure that takes him from London to Paris and many other locales in an attempt to prevent a global catastrophe.

Downey Jr, easily one of my favourite actors is on brilliant form as Holmes, and his quips, excentric behaviour and plethora of increasingly bizarre disguises is a joy to behold.  Law is somewhat more subdued this time around but still manages to spar with his on-screen buddy amicably.  Joining the cast is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace who makes for a feisty action heroine.  Yet above all else this is director Guy Ritchie’s gig with some quite remarkable visual flourishes that enhance the wealth of action sequences and really stamp his identity on the movie.  He’s come a long way since Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and has grown into a director with real intelligence and  imagination.

The story does get a tad confusing and over-complicated at times, and the comedy is laid on a touch thick for my liking.  Yet as a follow-up to an already impressive adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary icon – this is every bit as good as that movie was, and in Moriarty has a villain that actually gives Holmes a run for his money this time around.

Verdict:  4 /5

Rocknrolla


Viewed – 08 Feb 2009  Blu-ray

Brit-director Guy Ritchie has kinda fallen from grace over the last few years, following being labelled the next big thing with the hit British gangster capers Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, then his tabloid-bating marriage to Madonna resulting in some of the worst movies of his career thus far (the abomination that was Swept Away and the over-complex mess that was Revolver).  So now with Madonna booted, up pops this, his much hyped return to form?  But is it?

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On first inspection all the ingredients are here – London setting, loud mouthed cockney geezers, a moody voice over and stylish camera work with clever editing.  I sat down to this with a big grin on my face, but am sad to report, it was a grin that gradually faded as the movie progressed.

The story follows a business deal between a ruthless, ageing gangster called Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) and a swarve, well spoken Russian business tycoon.  Then for some convoluted reason that is never really explained the Rusky lends Lenny a painting, which then gets nicked out of Lenny’s house (!), and soon panic ensues as he looks for the painting so not to annoy his business partner.  This has to be one of the lamest set ups in movie history, and with an opening that hints at an ambitious, ruthless rock-star who wants power and will stop at nothing to get it, initial promise fades when said rock-star turns out to me a complete gimp, with very few lofty aspirations other than getting tanked up on drugs and being a twat.  Yes, we have a crew of likable guys calling themselves the wild bunch (headed by new hot property Gerard Butler), but who are so poorly developed that they come across as cartoon characters in a world of idiots and simpletons.

This approach to London gangsters can work wonderfully when the script is genuinely funny as in Lock, Stock and Snatch, but here Guy Ritchie is trying too hard to save a limp script by throwing in clever one liners, rhyming slang and silly character names in an attempt to cover up the fact the story sucks.  This is a movie that would work better with the sound off, so you could admire the look and style without being disappointed by everything else.

On Blu-ray we have a decent picture even if it’s a little soft focus, with beefy Dolby TrueHD sound  Extras-wise we have a commentary from the director and some decent behind the scenes footage, all I must point out presented in HD.  A package the film isn’t quite worthy of.

Verdict:  2 /5