George Clooney. Michael Fassbender. Ryan Gosling. Those are just a few of the actors that had been attached (or rumored) to star in the big-screen adaptation of the 1960s spy series The Man From UNCLE. It’s a varied but intriguing group, all from when Steven Soderbergh was set to direct the film as one of his last hurrah victory laps before he swore off movies altogether. But attachments are only as good as the trade magazine paper they’re announced on, and in 2011 Soderbergh ended up leaving the project over budget and casting issues.
And here we are, four years later, presented with the final product from Snatch andSherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie. If you’ve seen one Ritchie flick you know his style: outrageous violence and outrageous humor, matched with whiz-bang transitions and an assured sense of visual polish. They’re upper-class (or just more British) versions of what your dad might call “guy movies” — hyper-macho tales of posturing criminals and thugs, sure, but rendered with an effervescent flair, and usually held together by an incredibly charismatic lead actor.
But what happens when Ritchie doesn’t have a Brad Pitt (Snatch), Jason Statham (Revolver), or Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)? Well, then you get something likeUNCLE, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. It’s clear what kind of movie it wants to be: a tongue-in-cheek throwback to classic spy movies, anchored by the Odd Coupledynamic of its two leads. There’s just one problem: this star vehicle doesn’t have any stars.