Brat Farrar (bratfarrar) wrote,
Brat Farrar

Reviews: The Doorbell Rang; The Man From UNCLE

The Doorbell Rang (Rex Stout) - The Nero Wolfe mysteries are sort of what you'd get if you bumped Sherlock Homes forward 50 years, replaced Shelock with Mycroft, turned Watson into a skilled PI in his own right, moved the whole enterprise to New York City, and transformed the relationship from unlikely friendship to long-established and smoothly-functioning business partnership. Nero Wolfe is Archie Baldwin's boss, and Archie is a superb subordinate and vital to Wolf's ability to solve cases (since Wolfe hates to set foot outside his comfortable home).

Like with Sherlock, the focus of the stories tends to be the working of the case--interviews, examining locations, and setting up ploys/traps in various ways to see how people react. And, at times, clashing with the police when they happen to also be working the same case. Archie stands in for Watson as recorder, and I must admit to enjoying his style a trifle more than the good doctor's:
Since it was the deciding factor, I might as well begin by describing it. It was a pink slip of paper three inches wide and seven inches long, and it told the First National Bank to be to the order of Nero Wolfe one hundred thousand and 00/100 dollars. Signed, Rachel Bruner. It was there on Wolfe's desk, where Mrs. Bruner had put it. After doing so, she had returned to the red leather chair.
This particular case has them going up against the FBI, who apparently were just as highly trusted back in the day as they are now, but really--any Nero Wolfe mystery is pretty much guaranteed to be enjoyable. (The audio book versions are fabulous; Archie's style lends itself quite well to the medium.)

The Man From UNCLE (Guy Richie, 2015) - First off: it's a great shame this didn't do well enough at the box office to assure us a sequel. It's stylish, fun, and decently clever, and aside from a few interchangable bad-guy flunkies, the character all drawn strongly enough that we understand motivations and can see consistency in methods. And although it has several chase scenes, as come standard for the genre, they're shot and edited in such a way that I was actually able to remain engaged instead of mentally checking out after the first 30 seconds. (Also--great musical score, speaking as someone who's a definite snob about such things.)

Sure, it's a bit over the top, but differently than, say, the Mission: Impossible or Bourne franchises. Perhaps because it functions on a smaller scale: it's set mainly in a single city, with the objective to retrieve a single person preemptively before a crisis can develop, rather than waiting until everything's begun blowing up to try to take out the problem.

But really, at the core, it's about developing trust and loyalty where neither is supposed to exist.
Tags: reviews & recommendations

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