Guy Ritchie, probably best known for his work on the Sherlock Holmes franchise featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, is back on the big screen with an adaptation of the 1960s TV hit, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But adaptations, reboots and remakes are tricky in Hollywood, with critics often putting an extra critical eye on the updated projects.
So, what do critics have to say about Ritchie's latest project? For the most part, reviewers agree that it's "charming" fun, but probably will be forgotten by the end of the summer.
A.V. Club's Jesse Hassenger believes that Madonna's ex-husband has found a "better groove" in his blockbuster home, and even credits him for making a fun movie when a movie never needed to happen. "But while The Man From U.N.C.L.E. probably isn't any less of a caricature of its period than Sherlock Holmes, it carries its fakeness with more snap in its step," he writes. "The imaginary intrigue it generates is fleeting, but often beautiful."
Daniel Smith/Warner Bros.
CNET, in a spoiler-free review, praises the movie for it's on- and off-screen style, crediting Ritchie for the costumes, soundtrack and scenery. "...Everybody is immaculately coiffed and impeccably dressed in sharp suits, chic couture and signature sunglasses. With a soundtrack of cool jazz, smooth soul and jaunty Italian pop music, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. absolutely drips style," Rich Trenholm writes.
But the film's greatest strength, he notes, is also its greatest weakness.
"Unfortunately, the laid-back, louche feel extends to the plot too. As the boss spy explains to us in the traditional spy movie briefing, our rival agents must team up to find an ex-Nazi scientist before bad guys can build a nuclear bomb. Or something," he adds. "The story, such as it is, is entirely secondary to the parade of stylish outfits and equally stylish action set-pieces."
Daniel Smith/Warner Bros.
Variety's Peter Debruge credits Ritchie for his latest work, but says among other competitors such as Kingsman or Spectre, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will fall flat with viewers, especially since the movie relies more upon its "pretty-boy posturing" than action.
"[Henry] Cavill and [Armie] Hammer have each toplined major tentpoles before, so it's something of a mystery why neither makes much of an impression here, but there's a curious vacuum at the center of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that almost certainly owes to its casting," he explains. "The actors behave more like mannequins than men, modeling bespoke suits and dapper hats as they move in what feels like slow motion compared with past Ritchie pics."
The New York Post, however, focused on Cavill's poor performance. While they say he has performed poorly before, this film might be his worst work yet. "Cavill's [Napoleon] Solo, and the movie, are aggressively quippy, which is what happens when screenwriters set out to be funny but give up when they're halfway there," Kylie Smith says. "Cavill's brand of heavy sarcasm is rife with ironic emphases and smarmy pauses: 'Not very good at this whole ‘subtlety' thing, are you?' It's the tone of an SNL actor—Chris Parnell, maybe—playing an actor playing a doctor in a fake commercial for hemorrhoids."
Vanity Fair couldn't disagree more. Richard Lawson gives Ritchie kudos for his latest project, writing that this movie should get much more credit than it will by audience members. "But instead it manages, through the pluck of its cast and its director, Guy Ritchie, to entertain in a fizzy, offbeat kind of a way," he writes. "It's a merry jaunt with a refreshingly low body count (until the end, at least) that deserves more of an audience than it's probably going to get."
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