The Double Directed by: Michael Brandt Cast: Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: R Release Date: November 4, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: A formerly retired C.I.A operative (Gere) is brought back to work to find his #1 enemy, a Soviet assassin named Cassius who might be connected with a senator's murder. He is joined by a younger agent (Grace) who has spent years studying the assassin's every move.
WHO'S IT FOR? The Double would function as OK matinee fare for moviegoers who like their stories with a few twists in them, whether they ultimately make sense or not. And if you're that hard-pressed to see an action movie with Richard Gere, perhaps rent last year's under-appreciated Brooklyn's Finest instead. If you're still afraid of Russians, this one might be for you.
EXPECTATIONS: Putting Topher Grace and Richard Gere at the top of this movie didn't make for an exciting proposition. It was also touting that it comes from the writers of Wanted and the 3:10 to Yuma remake. I wasn't sure if that meant I should expect a memorable film or not.
Richard Gere as Paul Shepherson: The best thing I can say about Gere here is that he is trying. With this character Paul, who is outed by the script in only fifteen or twenty minutes, Gere is trying to surprise the audience and himself with a "challenging" character. Though he does have a few goofy slip-ups (usually the script's doing, and not of that of his performance), he does have a couple smooth moments in which Gere's balancing act doesn't feel like it's part of a clown show. Score: 5
Topher Grace as Ben Geary: The whippersnappers don't snap any more than Topher Grace, a pipsqueak actor who now plays a brainy college boy turned federal agent. It's a bland character, despite whatever toying the script tries to do with it at the end. Grace isn't able to supply any more character depth that the script was likely lacking. Score: 4
Martin Sheen as Tom Highland: Maybe because he sends the second half of the film off-screen hiking in Europe in honor of his belated son (oh wait, that's just The Way), Sheen disappears mid-way through The Double. He's brought in at the beginning to introduce the main characters to one another, and make the elusive "Cassius" sound like the next Keyser Soze. Fitting, because as Soze says about himself in The Usual Suspects, "And like that ... he is gone." Score: 3
TALKING: Though it uses a name like "Cassius," The Double doesn't trust that we know what the name refers to, so it over-explains the origins until the name is tainted with audience laughter. The beginning of The Double is a melee of tough guy dialogue, all delivered earnestly as the movie chugs through stale-looking scenario to the next. Seriously, who says "It all happened so goddamn fast" outside of Planet C.I.A Agent? Gere has an awkward moment of comic relief in which he says, "If Russians used their women instead of missiles, we'd all be wearing furry hats by now." Score: 4
SIGHTS: A car chase lacks any excitement, and looks more like bad driving than a high-stakes chase. It seems like its in place for The Double to nervously meet action movie requirements, however dinky its follow-through may be. The Double does have a couple of smooth moments - Cassius' watch wire takedown in the middle of a street during a flashback has some nice grit to it, and without any flashiness. Other flashbacks, which take place in the late 80's, feature Gere and Sheen stubbornly not wearing any make-up to have them appear any younger than they do now. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Chugging guitars and rushing strings create the essence of The Double's soundtrack, which wants to be both a rocking action movie and a film of sophisticated intrigue. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: The aforementioned street murder is pretty slick. Especially since all other flashbacks in this movie are dry-humor jokes with terrible make-up.
ENDING: So ... he just gives up his main mission? For America? Either way, I didn't really care to wrestle with conclusion one afterward.
QUESTIONS: Prison security guards will just allow you to give prisoners radios? So, a crossword puzzle is the big giveaway? How long was the body in the garage? Overnight? Or it's that Gere's character doesn't answer the phone when Grace calls him, and that's what causes the suspicion? As someone else said to me, "The C.I.A doesn't believe in background checks?" How much better could this film have been in the hands of a different director? Did this movie ever have stars attached to it who were above Richard Gere and Topher Grace?
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks. This wouldn't even make for a fun channel-surfing pit stop on cable (if I had cable, ha ha!).
As the shirt saying sort of goes, The Double has got some tricks up its sleeves - but it also has too many holes in its shirt. Meaning, this "C.I.A thriller" only has a wannabe level of smarts - it's too sloppy and confusing with its "surprises" to be a stand out movie of its type (see my "Questions" section above). The script is attracted by the premise of hidden identities, but can't provide the required brain gusto to successfully celebrate such a concept. Eventually, major reveals in the third act start feeling like punchlines to bad jokes, or even worse, entirely useless.
At times The Double succeeds with a few tricks, but in others it leaves the audience giggling at the script's mistaken sense of intelligence.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10