If looks could kill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would be lethal. A perfectly tailored period piece (the early 1960s, with funny Eastern Block automobiles and bold French couture), Guy Ritchie's reboot of the old TV spy show stars a trio of exceedingly handsome actors dashing and deadpanning their way around some exceedingly handsome locales.

Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander - it's a battle of cheekbones and chins, as they hop from rain-slicked Berlin Wall checkpoints to grand European hotels to glittering Mediterranean isles. Even the dungeon where a nuclear scientist is being held captive has a gloomy chic going. And there hasn't been a better-dressed villain - Elizabeth Debicki, with her black-and-white outfits and vintage bling - since the days when Daniela Bianchi and Honor Blackman tried to best, and bed, Sean Connery's James Bond.

Of course, the mid-1960s NBC series, which starred Robert Vaughn as American espionage agent Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as his Russian counterpart, Illya Kuryakin, capitalized on the popularity of those original 007 films. And Ritchie, the director of the two Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes hits, has clearly done his homework, cribbing from the early Bonds, and homaging other Cold War cloak-and-dagger classics, too. (The Ipcress File, anyone?)

So, if you're looking for neo-nostalgia - for a kind of faithfully retro Hollywood redo of 50 years ago - The Man from U.N.C.L.E. cannot be beat. Even the music (Solomon Burke, Nina Simone, Hugo Montenegro) is right-on.

But beneath the old-school tradecraft and jaunty cool, there's not much there. Cavill, moonlighting from his Man of Steel gig, is Napoleon Solo, a reformed jewel thief now working for the CIA. He projects a droll and debonair vibe, and maybe the multicredited screenplay doesn't allow for much more than that. His nemesis-turned-partner, Illya Kuryakin, is played by Hammer - the Winklevosses in The Social Network, the Lone Ranger in (ahem) The Lone Ranger. A big guy, Hammer tries out his ersatz Russian accent, first trading blows with Solo, then trading quips. But Hammer remains steadfastly a lug.

Vikander, the A.I. muse of one of this year's best films, Ex Machina, is Gaby Teller, who we first encounter in an East Berlin garage, working the undercarriage of a car. Kuryakin calls her his "little chop-shop girl," and it turns out she can both chop (karate, judo) and shop (Dior, Rabanne). The height differential between the small-framed Swedish actress and the hulking Hammer makes their scenes together amusingly odd. Gaby is the daughter of the aforementioned vanished scientist, and both the U.S. and the Soviets are trying to find him, lest his H-bomb know-how fall into the wrong hands.

There's your plot, neatly wrapped in double-crosses.

The chases, face-offs, and firefights are staged with panache and aplomb (and, from the looks of it, plenty of money), but Ritchie's penchant for split-screens and jump-cuts undermines the action, not enlivens it. Jared Harris and Hugh Grant pop up as bosses from the CIA and MI6, respectively, and the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Venezia pop up as iconic glamour spots of Rome.

A lot of energy and effort has gone into this endeavor, and I can't say some of it's not fun. But more of it, alas, is just tedious. Say uncle already.

And by the way, that acronym? United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. **1/2 (Out of four stars)


Directed by Guy Ritchie. With Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant, and Elizabeth Debicki. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Running time: 1 hour, 56 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, adult themes).

Playing at: Area theaters.EndText