At a time when the new Russia is more about gangsters than politicians, along comes a benign thriller that is about as thrilling as last week’s borscht. A group of Russian spies sneak across the U.S. border posing as illegal Mexican immigrants. Soon after, a U.S. senator is murdered in an alley in Washington, D.C, played by Detroit. Richard Gere plays Paul Sheperdson, a retired C.I.A. operative who threw in the towel in 1989 after he brought down a coven of Soviet assassins code-named for the Romans who killed Julius Caesar, and especially the bloodiest and most dangerous killer of them all, a monster named Cassius. Now, after more than 20 years, the feds think Cassius has just arrived masquerading as one of the phony wetbacks and suspect him of assassinating the senator. None of this is ever explained, but Sheperdson’s old boss at the C.I.A. (Martin Sheen) implores him join forces with a rookie F.B.I. agent named Ben Geary (Topher Grace) to track down Cassius. Apparently, when the C.I.A. joins forces with the F.B.I., it’s like dumping a piranha in a water tank with a stingray. Sheperdson hates academics, but Geary, despite his youth (he wasn’t even around when Sheperdson watched the Berlin Wall fall), is an expert on Cassius, even writing his Ph.D. thesis at Harvard on him. It’s hate at first sight, but Sheperdson, who shot and killed Cassius himself in 1989, is intrigued enough to come out of retirement and prove them all wrong. The search begins and a lot of dull action ensues.
Keeping that Julius Caesar cast list going, another Russian assassin named Brutus is interviewed in a prison cell and he too is savagely murdered. This time it is Sheperdson who sends Geary home, fearing for the lives of his wife and two kids. Then we see Sheperdson slit the throat of Brutus, using Cassius’s famous trick of using an invisible wire from his wrist watch like an old James Bond toy. Aha! So maybe while we were waiting for the true identity of Cassius to be revealed, it was really secret agent Sheperdson all along. But there’s more. Was he a double agent? Now that the Russians sit beside us at the U.N., who is he spying for? Why do Sheperdson and Geary both lapse into Russian? Who is the real villain? No spoilers here. Illogical surprises are just beginning. Contrived plot twists, preposterous red herrings and music so loud it drowns out the dialogue all contribute to a film that might have seemed feasible in the first draft to director Michael Brandt, who also wrote the silly script with Derek Haas, but it got mangled in translation. You can’t even say that when all else fails, there is always the acting. Hopelessly miscast as an F.B.I. agent on a dangerous mission, Mr. Grace doesn’t look old enough to shave. And rarely has Mr. Gere walked through any movie with so little energy and so much indifference. I’ve seen more fervor on the face of a man parking a car. It will take double time to make up for The Double.
Running Time 98 minutes
Written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas
Directed by Michael Brandt
Starring Odette Annable, Stephen Moyer and Richard Gere