Movie a Day Blog thought FANTASTIC FOUR (2015, Movie a Day 8/9/15) would at least take the summer honors for the worst film released, but THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015, Theatrical) will give it stiff competition.

Guy Ritchie has seen his directing career has gone steadily downhill since his in-your-face-with-a-British-sneer debut films, LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998) and SNATCH. (2000).

Then he became Mr. Madonna, directed the dreadful SWEPT AWAY (2002), and finally hit Hollywood boxoffice heaven with his two SHERLOCK HOLMES reboots with Robert Downey Jr. Great filmmaking they weren’t, but at least they moved along nicely and allowed Downey to mug to his heart’s content.

He isn’t so lucky with MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., for which he bears primary responsibility.

When the director gets first position screenplay credit, you know he’s rewritten that script from top to bottom, and Ritchie’s got no one else to blame for the turgid, ridiculous dialogue.

It doesn’t help that it’s delivered in a stilted, mannered way by Henry Cavill, and with an atrocious Russian accent by Armie Hammer that makes him sound like Boris Badenov from the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoons.

Only Alicia Vikander as the romantic lead/double agent is spared this disaster, which feels like an extended music video using action elements instead of dancers. There are plenty of chases, lots of explosions, our heroes always emerge unscathed, and one song drones into another on the overly-enhanced soundtrack.

But tension is completely absent from MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., along with any sense of adroit storytelling. Reviving the Cold War setting does absolutely nothing for the story, which ran on TV from 1964 until 1968, and was the subject of a previous spinoff MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E movie in 1964.

It should have been allowed to rest in peace. Cavill is showing dangerous signs of being a perennially weak actor, given his bland Superman and his too-chiseled face.

Hammer likewise looks great when he’s moving or standing still, but the minute he has to speak or act in character, he appears clueless, as he did in THE LONE RANGER (2013) when he starred in the title role. Only David Fincher has been able to get a decent performance out of him playing not one, but two characters, the Winklevoss twins in THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010, Movie a Day 10/3/10).

Vikander, who manages to look completely different in every single role she assays on screen, is the flavor of the minute, but it would be nice to see her given a role that she can stretch into. All she has to do in MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. is grin and grimace, sometimes simultaneously, and hide as much as possible behind giant white 60s sunglasses.

She does get to wear some terrific outfits, but if that’s the highlight of an action movie, Ritchie is in big trouble.

Hearing that Ritchie is now in production on a new feature version of the King Arthur myth made me even more nervous. How many era’s can this director screw up?

You can scratch the Cold War off the list thanks to THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.




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