31 August 2015

A Sequel To Tarantino's Bond Movie?

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Like the dead bodies of a string of slightly dim foreign women, James Bond's DNA can be found in most spy films released within the last fifty years. Like it or not but in the same way that Sean Connery might attempt to 'calm down' one of his lady friends, the Bond franchise has bitch-slapped its way to the top to become the centre pole of the genre. I don't know if you remember but back in 2004 Quentin Tarantino started flapping his face-mounted drone-machine and telling people about his plans to make a 60's set adaptation of Casino Royale starring Pierce Brosnan. Shockingly though, and despite this being the director of The Vega Brothers, Kill Bill 3, and Killer Crow, it turned out that this was all hot air with his film never actually materialising. To his credit, he did attempt to bid for the rights to make the movie but was unsurprisingly beaten by EoN who then famously used it to reboot their series. Still, at least he took it with his traditional good grace and dignity by claiming that the reason the producers subsequently denied him a chance at directing was because they were worried he'd “make it too good and fuck the rest of the series”. Still, lets say that wasn't the case.. and it definitely was.. let's say that we live in a parallel reality where the producers of Skyfall hadn't been so intimidated by the talent of the director of Death Proof and they'd actually let him make Casino Royale... Well, at least in terms of style and tone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is basically a sequel to that movie. 
I won't go into the story too much because for the most part it doesn't really matter, but essentially the film takes place in the early 60's when Mother Russia and Uncle Sam were having their international pissy fit by threatening to nuke the shit out of planet Earth. Henry Cavill's American Agent Napoleon Solo has been tasked with finding a German woman whose father was a bomb maker for the Nazi's. However his mission goes a little bit titties up when it's interrupted by the arrival of Armie Hammer's Illya Kuryakin, a mental Russian agent who happens to be built like a brick shithouse. They fight, they survive, a rivalry forms, and then in a shock turn of events, their respective organisations decide to team the two up to fight a greater evil. Oh, the hijinks and chaos that those two rapscallions might get up to whilst trying to complete their next mission in a conflict that could end with humanity being nuked into a steaming puddle of melted flesh and piss. That's kind of it really, however when I say that the story doesn't matter, I don't mean to suggest that there isn't one because there is. It's just that for me it mostly exists here as a structure to hang its sense of style and fun on. A good looking woman might have the most perfectly formed skeleton but at the end of the day it's going to be her genitals and personality that I'm mostly drawn to. However that's not to say that I'm not still glad that she has a skeleton, and I am fully aware of the misogyny of that analogy. Please feel free to swap the gender to suit your own preferences and bare in mind that I'm very, very fucking single. 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E is based on that T.V. show from the olden days of 'before I was born' and has been adapted here by Guy “Cor Facking Blimey” Ritchie. In all honesty, I'm quite a big fan of his although I am obviously more than aware of his flaws and have so far managed to avoid the critically annihilated Revolver and Swept Away as though they were a Pandora's Box of cock leprosy. Since starting strong with Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, his reputation quickly found itself face-first in a pool of shite as he began churning out crap that was both overly 'lad'-ish and yet still annoyingly pretentious. Just listen to the YouTube clips of his commentary for Revolver and it's like listening to the creator of Zoo Magazine describing his product as though he think's he's fucking Kafka. It's fucking hilarious! Despite this though, somebody thought it would be a good idea to give him the chance to make a Sherlock Holmes movie which, even with all common sense suggesting the contrary, it turned out they were right to do so. Within the constraints of a big budget Hollywood movie, Ritchie was able to express his creative sensibilities but in an environment that aimed to remove any of that annoying mockney stuff that'd reduce his appeal to an audience wider than just twatty, misogynistic London lads like Danny Dyer.  

So with Sherlock Holmes you still get the really cool music, Fincher-esque shots of mechanical workings, and light sense of humour, but without his false sense of genius and yet another attempt at remaking The Long Good Friday. The Man From U.N.C.L.E is his first non-Holmes movie since his career was titty-punched back to life and in all honesty I fucking loved it. In the same way that Ritchie really mastered the quintessential Hammer Horror-esque movie version of a Victorian London for Holmes, he's managed the same here for the Cold War era 1960's planet Earth. The world of this film is in no way realistic and is instead seen through the eyes of the films that glamourised it. Imagine learning about the threat of communism and nuclear annihilation but through a kaleidoscope of Blow Up's vivid colours, Ocean 11's breezy rat pack cool, and The Thomas Crown Affair's bishop-bashing sexual frivolities. You know how Tarantino watches a film, steals an aspect that he likes, remakes it shot for shot, and then gets called a genius? Well Ritchie seems to do something a little more admirable by simply absorbing the imagery and vibe of a decade and allowing his film to remain completely original whilst still homaging the pop-culture of that time. As well as all of the above, The Man From U.N.C.L.E also throws in an Ipcress File styled torture scene, a Great Escape referencing motorbike chase, and of course a suave, dapper, James Bond-esque lead. Tall, handsome, dark-haired, and likely to be riddled with a penis-destroying sexually transmitted disease, Napoleon Solo is what happens when a slither of Connery's Bond is left in a petri-dish and grows.     

However, Solo's Bond-esque qualities might not be so unexpected, especially when considering that he's played by 2005's loser of they year Henry Cavill. Ten years ago, Superman, Batman, and Bond were all being rebooted with Cavill pretty much ending up as the second choice to every single one of those characters. A decade later and he's finally had his chance to be The Man Of Steel, he's about to get his face punched in by Affleck's Dark Knight, and Solo is essentially his version of Bond. In fact, there are shots as the chiselled and suited agent is hidden in the shadows whilst aiming his silenced gun that suggest it might be possible one day for somebody to successfully fill Daniel Craig's character defining boots. The Man From U.N.C.L.E has the feel of an early Bond film but made with the technology and pace that we expect today. It also has an amazing Roger Moore-esque level of innuendo that's genuinely hilarious whilst never seemingly wandering too far into irony or seeming too self-aware. There's a conversation in which Solo's boss informs him of an upcoming mission that's made to sound like he's about to get a manky cock shoved in his mouth which Ritchie miraculously still manages to make sound both witty and charming. That's quite an achievement for a director whose previous scripts relied a little too much on 'the c-word' being uttered by a load of witless cunts.   

The Man From U.N.C.L.E doesn't particularly have a Bond-esque plot, and instead plays a little more on some features of a buddy movie... but due to its complete sense of time, its focus more on wit than action, its love of movies from that decade, and just general coolness, it really does feel close to what we can only imagine Tarantino's unmade Bond would have been like. It also further suggests a similarity between Ritchie and Tarantino that's existed since we saw Vinnie Jones draw on his history as a footballer and rage-smashes somebodies head in with a car door. Like Tarantino, Ritchie began with a low-budget comedy gangster film that kickstarted a trend of shitty rip-offs before following it up with a movie that was essentially the same but on steroids. Snatch might not be in the same league as Pulp Fiction, but there's no denying the similar relationship both films have to their predecessors and each other. Both men use their knowledge of previous movies to enhance their own, both particularly love Leone's spaghetti westerns, both make use of amazing music, and both seem like they're proper tossers in real life. However whereas I think that Tarantino is hugely over-rated, I can't help but think that Ritchie is kind of under-rated. Sure Ritchie has made some shite, but let's not forget that Kill Bill 1 and 2 are structurally bollocks, the tone of Inglorious Basterds was all over the place, Django Unchained had an indulgent, movie ruining final half-hour, and Death Proof was more shit than Mickey Rourke's pork-chop of a face.  

The problem with both Tarantino and Ritchie is that they both seem to be at the mercy of their own ego and are therefore prone to being overly-indulgent with their films. However because the world can't seem to see that Emperor Tarantino is walking about with his cock out, nobody seems willing to tell him to pop some clothes on and reign it in. Ironically, working in these more controlled studio conditions is why Ritchie now seems to be at the top of his game and I'd argue that The Man From U.N.C.L.E might even be his best film yet. It zips along at a pace that makes it impossible to get bored during, with everything being about as cool as Mr Freeze's anus after he's shat out an ice-poop. It's obviously not without its flaws; the villains don't get much of a look in and the story really is secondary to it's style, but fuck it, it was still enjoyable. 2015 might be the year that Spectre is out but we've already had Kingsman: The Secret Service which was The Spy Who Loved Me after being brain stabbed with an injection of crazy; Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation which was the most Bondian of that series if you can imagine 007 being played by a tiny, suicidal, alien fucker; and now there's Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E which is the kind of film we'd be watching in Heaven if the bombs had gone off and we're all oblivious to the fact that we're now dead and Heaven doesn't really exist. Thanks for reading motherfuckers, and see you next time. 


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