By Stephanie Merry
Friday, Nov 04, 2011
There's something to be said for reliability. And that includes the road-tested storyline of a jaded veteran who treats a peskily go-getting ingenue with exasperation, before the two join forces to take out the bad guy.
"The Double" appears to be just such a Honda Civic of a movie. But an early twist - which feels wrong to reveal here, even while it's divulged during the trailer - turns the movie into an even less exciting endeavor.
In the case of screenwriter Michael Brandt's directorial debut (he penned the most recent "3:10 to Yuma," not to mention "2 Fast 2 Furious"), the grizzled CIA agent Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) comes out of retirement to take care of unfinished business; the Russian spy, known as Cassius, whom Paul had hunted 20 years earlier and supposedly eliminated, appears to have resurfaced only to murder a senator.
The former operative believes the newest killer is merely a well-informed copycat, who has learned to mimic Cassius's trademark throat-slitting. And to prove it, Shepherdson takes the case, which means partnering with FBI agent Ben Geary (Topher Grace), a naif who has done extensive research on Cassius but zero work in the field.
The pairing is a recipe for snarky one-liners, which are normally the genre's comic relief. Here, though, the lines fall flat both because of the uninspired writing ("You're a librarian") and the delivery, as Gere doesn't appear particularly committed to the role.
The big reveal, which comes about 30 minutes into the movie, offers up some dramatic irony, which can add to the suspense. But this is hardly "Wait Until Dark." To keep it vague, let's just say that one of the protagonists might be, as the title suggests, something other than what he seems. So when the duo is chasing down a suspicious looking fellow, the audience knows the man running away isn't really a risk. Where's the thrill in that chase?
In terms of action stars, Gere and Grace can't really compete with the catlike reflexes of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne or the smooth operating of Daniel Craig as James Bond. This might make the movie more believable if Gere wasn't scripted to quickly dispatch a formidable enemy played by Stephen Moyer of "True Blood" renown.
Speaking of the script, questionable motives and unbelievable decisions are relatively small potatoes compared with the Sputnik-size plotholes.
Some impressive camera work begins to redeem the proceedings, including sweeping shots of the nation's capital (admittedly, this critic might be biased in that regard), along with some claustrophobic shots that add anxiety to early scenes before the plot drains the movie of tension.
It's not enough to boost up this botched attempt to tinker with something that, while predictable, is at least dependable. And while we're on the topic: The Civic looks better without the spoiler and flashy rims. But try telling that to the man behind "2 Fast 2 Furious."