The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Double

As a movie fan, I think one of the biggest joys you can find is stumbling across a new movie that instantly gets your attention. For a lot of us, that means movie trailers and previews. The threat of course is simple....that trailer ruins the entire movie. 'Hey, that looks good!' is quickly followed by 'Wait, did I just see the entire movie?' That's what I took away from the trailer for 2011's The Double.

Having retired from the CIA some 20 years ago, Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) is sought out to help solve one more crime, a murder of a U.S. Senator. The killing has links to a former case of Paul's, one that haunted him for years. It is believed the murderer is a believed dead Russian spy, Cassius, who Paul spent years hunting down. He believes he is in fact dead, but still agrees to help a young FBI agent, Ben Geary (Topher Grace), in the investigation. Geary is obsessed with Cassius, even writing a college thesis on him, so combined with Paul's experience and expertise, can they somehow track the deep undercover Russian agent down?

At some point last fall in 2011, I stumbled across the trailer for this straight-to-DVD spy flick. It started off positive enough, and I was mildly intrigued. It looked decent enough, rising above its straight to DVD roots. About halfway through though, a bombshell gets dropped, a rather revealing and key plot twist. It's not a trick or a ruse to confuse you. The trailer "twist" is actually a major turning point in the story, and it appears just as you will see it in the movie. Just a forewarning because I'll post the link below at the end of the review. Buzzkill much? Any mystery or suspense is ripped away from us. To be fair, the movie doesn't wait long to "reveal" the twist. Still, what's the point if everything is spoiled going into the movie?

So yes, the story is pretty dumb, the script not doing anyone any favors. But as is so often the case, the straight to DVD issue is in my head. Sure, some money was clearly spent on the production, but there's that special something missing. It's that one thing that screams "I'm good enough for theaters!" as a movie. The action feels forced, cliched and hokey. The musical score is ridiculous, sounding like someone just picked shuffle on ITunes and took a nap. It doesn't help either that the movie is based in Washington D.C. but not filmed there. We get lots....lots....of establishing shots (the White House, the FBI, the Jefferson Memorial among others), and then the camera clearly moves to a random city, in this case...Detroit. Beyond the predictable script, the little things end up shooting 'Double' in the foot, limiting director Michael Brandt's chances.

Ah, the old grizzled veteran and the young, perky newbie trying to prove himself. Yeah for cliches, stereotypes and stock characters! Richard Gere is an interesting character to watch, but it feels like he's phoning this performance in. He has two looks. One, bemused boredom. He coldly stares at his co-stars, possibly questioning what he's doing in this movie. Two, bemused boredom with some anger thrown in (however little). Some revelations late make the character a little interesting, but not enough. And for Topher Grace, I think That 70s Show is going to be an issue going ahead. I see him as Eric Forman. Playing a FBI agent? Totally not buying that. When scenes require genuine dramatic presence, he sounds ridiculous, screaming in a high-pitched voice that wouldn't scare a toddler. Oh, and in the random department, Martin Sheen cashes a check as Highland, the head of the CIA.

So what else to say? Not much. A second twist in the final act makes a desperate attempt at making things interesting by throwing a curveball, but I wasn't buying it. The twist comes out of left field, and like so much of the movie, it reeks of being forced and jammed into the story for sake of being "clever." I wasn't expecting much out of this spy flick, but I didn't get much out of it either. Steer clear of it. Remember now, don't watch the trailer if you want the movie spoiled for you. SPOILERS

The Double <---SPOILERS trailer (2011): */****


  1. Sounds dreadful. In fairness I liked Topher Grace in Traffic, but playing an obnoxious teen wasn't really stretching his talent.

  2. Very much DON'T recommend this one, Chris! Topher Grace had a certain goofy charm in That 70s Show, but as a dramatic actor, he's just not there yet, and this performance is awful. To be fair, the whole movie is awful but you get the point.