Spy Time Aka Anacleto: Agente Secreto (2015): Action Comedy Fun (Review)

Anacleto and son in Spy Time

Based on a comic book that parodies the James Bond world of spies and super secret agents, Spy Time (Anacleto: Agente Secreto) is a fun action comedy that is particularly apt for this day and age. Anacleto is the silver-haired suave secret agent who has to deal with a declining budget and a list of enemies that hate him.

One, Vázquez, stages an escape as he is being transported from one prison to another (“A smaller, dirtier, prison,” says Anacleto with more than a little satisfaction.).  As he departs the escort van the secret agent’s nemesis reveals he plans to kill Anacleto and his son Adolfo (Quim Gutiérrez).

Adolfo is a Wilber milquetoast character. A security guard at an electrical shop who is afraid to approach the criminals stealing merchandise from the shop floor.  Adolfo’s girlfriend Katia (Alexandra Jiménez) is breaking up with him because he is boring and does not even have a driving license. 

The two meet up at a nightclub and after she fights with her brother, Martin (Berto Romero), who is Adolfo’s best friend,  Katia and Adolfo have break-up sex at their apartment. After learning that she still intends to leave him, Adolfo goes to sleep on the couch.

Vázquez sends his first assassin to kill Anacleto’s son and a very surprised Adolfo learns that  he can defend himself and kills the Chinaman.  The next morning he goes to tell Katia and finds the apartment is in pristine  condition and that  the dead body is gone.

Adolfo meets his father Anacleto (Imanol Arias) and the two begin to reforge broken bonds and survive the many attempts on their lives. 

Directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera (who specializes in comedy films) and written by a trio of  scribes who based the screenplay on the comic by Manuel Vázquez Gallego Spy Time is a delightful romp that has little gore but some surprisingly brutal violence. 

(The writers who crafted the screenplay are: Pablo AlénBreixo Corral and Fernando Navarro.)

In terms of violence, one character has an long allen wrench shoved into their eye. It is a tad shocking but the act does not detract from the humor. Once again because there is a lack of gore. There are no buckets of claret here;  just enough to show that violence has occurred.

There are many comical moments. Anacleto giving Katia’s entire family truth serum. When Adolfo’s soon-to-be ex girlfriend complains that Anacleto’s son did not get the serum the secret agent protests. “What do you think I am? I’m not going to drug my own son!”

A great bit on assembling IKEA-type furniture and a secret meeting in a Bingo hall (“22, two little ducks”) and some splendid comic stunts make this a very entertaining film to watch. From the ubiquitous  tuxedo and cigarette to the Walther PPK semiautomatic pistol,  the role of Anacleto screams James Bond. But on a modern day EU budget.

The two main actors; Gutiérrez and Arias, look like father and son and their chemistry together is spot on. Arias is brilliant as the calm and self assured secret agent who “Never fails.”  Spy Time was shot in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and this helps the setting of the film feel authentic.

The Spanish shop fronts and the streets all put the viewer right  there. Viewers who have lived in Europe prepare for a light dose of nostalgia. (A quick sidenote: The fight scene in the covered market is brilliantly choreographed and quite funny.)

Spy Time is a 5 star film, virtually perfect in every way. Funny with a lot of action; shootouts and fights, with more than enough clever dialogue. The pacing is swift and flowing so that the 87  minute runtime feels much faster.  In terms of violence it is a tad severe so consider yourself warned.

The film is streaming on Netflix at the moment. It is a subtitled production so those who cannot cope with foreign films they “have to read” may want to give it a pass. For the rest, put your glasses on and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

Patrick Macnee Dead at 93: So Long John Steed

John Steed from The Avengers
As a kid I adored The Avengers. John Steed, the man who carried an umbrella instead of a gun and managed to have the world’s most beautiful women as partners in the world of off the wall espionage was a childhood hero. While my crush may have been Diana Riggs as Miss Emma Peel, the chap I aspired to be was Macnee’s Steed and it hurts to say so long to John Steed and Patrick Macnee who died Thursday at 93.

161 episodes of a series that featured Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson as the other half of a team that was years ahead of the rest of the world in showing that feminism could work. Although poor Thorson was never in the same league as the first two female stars of the show by the time she showed up, as the actress put it herself, the producers did not really know what to do with her character.

The Avengers was a parody of spy movies like the James Bond franchise, and later the Harry Palmer “bargain basement” version of Bond, where Steed was not quite so glamorous, or as rough, as Sean Connery’s Bond. Steed was: Totally cool, a gentlemen, utterly unflappable, and braver than brave; going up against all sorts of baddies and rarely armed except for that umbrella.

Steed never carried a gun and his character was actually the “second banana” to Ian Hendry’s character (Dr. David Keel)in season one. By the time the series reached season two Keel was gone and Steed was not. Macnee was the quintessential Englishman from 1961 to 1969 and the show made stars of Patrick, Blackman and Riggs on both sides of the big pond. Macnee would go on to do The New Avengers but it never gelled with me the way the first series did, despite Joanna Lumley’s Purdey.

Macnee worked practically nonstop, even appearing in one of the Bond films, A View to a Kill with Sir Roger Moore, whom he had worked with on The Sea Wolves, as well as David Niven, and according to Sir Roger, he was under the impression that Patrick and he were related. Moore gave his old “relative” and colleague a sending off after news of his death was made public.

The actor was a prolific performer and played many different roles, most of whom were English although he did portray other nationalities. He was also very good at playing villains, in the 1988 horror/comedy Waxwork, and its sequel, Macnee was a treacherous old family friend and stinker who tries to kill the hero. He played the baddie many times in his long career and always quite convincingly.

But it is as John Steed that he will stay in my memory. He once revealed that the reason The Avengers worked so well was that he and Diana Rigg, a very serious actress with a background in Shakespeare who was also voted, somewhat ironically, the world’s sexist ever TV star by the American publication TV Guide, wrote their own dialogue as the show’s scripts were, he said, abysmal.

Arthritis slowed him down later and forced him to give up acting except for voice over work. Patrick Macnee died at his California home of natural causes and his son Rupert informed the patrickmacnee.com website that he was with family when he died.

So long Patrick Macnee, aka John Steed, the umbrella carrying English gentleman and “action man.”

The Equalizer: Why is Denzel Washington More MacGyver than Robert McCall

The Equalizer: Why is Denzel Washington More MacGyver than Robert McCall

From 1985 to 1989 English actor Edward Woodward was The Equalizer, aka Robert McCall, a former well armed shadowy governmental agent who “had gun and traveled,” albeit not very far, to help the innocent; why then, in the big screen adaptation is Denzel Washington more like MacGyver than Robert McCall? Anyone watching the film its opening weekend would have noticed that, unlike the small screen version of the character, McCall used quite a number of implements to kill the bad guys. Implements that were not guns. It should also be pointed out that in Mr. Woodward’s televised, and fairly violent, series the villains were mostly homegrown rapists, murderers, blackmailers, et al versus the Russian baddies in the film versio

Good Friday a Long One With Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren

Good Friday a Long One With Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren

Ever since stumbling across The Long Good Friday years ago and which is one brilliant little independent British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, I can never start the Easter weekend without thinking of this gem. This small budgeted movie which caused me to fall in love with not only Mirren, but the short dynamo of talent that is Bob Hoskins never grows old. The mists of time have obscured just how the film came to be viewed, but it was in England that I first saw it. Having lived there long enough to recognise quite a number of Brit actors who were now quite big in the world of television and film. Watching this film over Easter weekend has become a tradition and not just for the beautiful Mirren.

Sam Mendes back to direct Bond number 24.

Sam Mendes back to direct Bond number 24.