Robert Vaughn & David McCallum reteam in this 1983 sequel, reprising their characters admirably & accurately, but the overall tone of this (one of the earliest of the tv "reunion" movies) fails to match the jaunty tongue-in-cheekness of the original, despite screenplay credit by series-creator Sam Rolfe, nor does it have the original hep music by Fried & Goldsmith.
The plot is typical of the '60s series: U.N.C.L.E.-vs-THRUSH, in the process dragging an innocent bystander into the fray. But besides the two leads, nothing remains of the original U.N.C.L.E. mythos. By 1983 the MGM backlot had been bulldozed for condos, so they shot entirely on location--even interiors. The result feels a little too raw. Sadly, the design ditched the sleek steel-panel walls of the original HQ, the cute miniskirted G3s & the gee-whiz technology that made the show fun. The old HQ "somewhere in the east '40s" has been boarded up and operations moved a few blocks away to new offices that smack of a mid-sized corporation somewhere in Wisconsin, with wood panelling & fluorescent overheads. In fact, the only elements reprised from the series are the pen-radio, the briefing-room TV sequence and a few "old-world" computer blinking consoles dragged out of the proproom.
The shtick of this remake is that the current staff of U.N.C.L.E. (the full "United Network Command for Law and Enforcement" emblazoned on the hallway walls; apparently U.N.C.L.E. is heavily into branding now) comprises vanilla-bland PC yuppies, possessing none of the silky suaveness of Napoleon Solo, and the entire agency seems to have a bureaucratic feel hanging over it. Perhaps with good reason: the international terrorist agency, THRUSH, is said to have been disbanded some years ago. The feeling is that without a worthy adversary, U.N.C.L.E. has lost its way. But now THRUSH rears up Phoenix-like, precipitating Solo's return to the fold, and he finds himself very much a fish out of water (a ploy used, perhaps more effectively, some years later in the first Brosnan "Bond" film where JB's predatory sexual mores clash with the PC feminism of the late 20th century).
Patrick McNee ("John Steed" of the Avengers) replaces the late Leo G. Carroll in a clever bit of type-casting, and there's a cameo by an even earlier "James Bond," but otherwise the show is unremarkable. Our aging fellows, drawn out of civilian retirement (explained for Ilya, but not for Solo), make a few slips being so long out of practice, but they're still in shape and eventually regain their old groove. Both see lots of action, make many witty comments & wind up regaining to a comfortable cameraderie. Curiously, it's never explained what kept them out of touch through the years (was there a falling out?), why top-agent Solo didn't get promoted to an admin position within U.N.C.L.E. (perhaps even Waverly's?), and what led to the ultimate demise of THRUSH years back.
Technically, the show is low-budget with a heavy '70s kitsch (film stock quality is marginal, typical of the era, with lots of stock footage -- one clip through an airplane window shows unprocessed blue-screen). The audio is poorly dubbed in places, with lots of distracting background noise. The stuntwork is pedestrian: a few cars get rolled "A-Team" style, dazed henchman stumbling from the wrecks, a villain dangles precariously from a helicopter skid but only a few inches from the ground, an U.N.C.L.E. swat team rapells down Boulder Dam identified as "Somewhere In Syria." This was a made-for-TV movie and it definitely shows as made on the cheap.
Come to think of it, though, that was the perverse charm of the '60s series, using cardboard sets and lots of smoke bombs. This sequel may ring more true to the series than I thought. --Edward A. Rapka