UNCHARTED (2022)- Review
So getting those winter blues, stuck inside for days due to the weather (and lingering travel restrictions) making you a bit stir crazy? The perfect “cure” might be a virtual “vacay”, namely a globe-spanning adventure starring two actors representing the “next-gen” of action heroes. Hey, one of them is still dominating the box office (and probably playing in the auditorium next door or down the hall). But this is no mere travelogue “romp”. It’s an adaptation (and a hoped-for new franchise). Another comic book, maybe a novel, or perhaps a classic TV show? Get with it Gramps’, this is a computer game that hopes to make as big a splash as Sonic did two years ago. Rather than a CGI speedy critter, here’s the tale of a team who’ll face any danger in their quest for gold and glory hidden in territories still UNCHARTED.
Much like another beloved action franchise, this movie’s opening sequence has the intrepid Nate Drake (Tom Holland) in seemingly unescapable peril until…a flashback. We then meet him as a teen when he and his older brother Sam try to raid a museum in the dead of night. Try is the operative word as the two are hauled back to the orphanage. Before Sami s sent off to “juvie’ he promises Nate that he’ll keep in touch, then disappears into the night. A dozen or so years later adult Nate is mixing cocktails and tossing off historical explorer nuggets as he relieves spoiled “trust funders” of their trinkets and cash. But somebody’s on to his “game”: worldly “collector” Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wallberg). He approaches Nate and tries to recruit him into his plot to grab to golden jeweled crosses that would unlock the lost treasure of Magellan. Nate’s not onboard till Sully reveals that he worked with Sam. Actually, they just need the cross that’s part of a big “high-end” auction nearby (Sully insists he’s got the other one). The duo sneaks into the swanky event and are immediately spotted by the slinky Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), Sully’s rival and a ruthless retriever for multi-billionaire Santiago (Antonio Banderas) who believes the treasure is part of his family legacy. After the auction ends in chaos Sully and Nate are on the run, first to meet up with a shady operative in Barcelona, Chloe (Sophia Ali), leading to an all-out showdown on a Pacific island. Can the lowly trio get to the loot before Santiago and Braddock’s army scoops it up?
Aside from its gaming roots, this film’s biggest ‘draw” may be Holland, fresh off of last year’s biggest box office hit (now the third biggest domestic B.O. of all time). Here he brings the same infectious energy and boyish charm as Peter P., but offset with a devious, rascally grin as he breezes off with “ill-gotten booty”. That’s tempered with his sense of loss and longing to reunite with his mentor, older sibling. Part of that role is taken up by Wahlberg whose Sully oozes with layback cool mixed with lots of snark, as he tries to suppress a grin as Nate reminds him of his early blunders. Both actors can pull off the dapper and the dirty inherent in their roles. Always looking suave is Banderas who now seems to be the “go-to” guy for the sinister international mastermind (much as he did last year in THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD). Well, at least he’s not stroking a cat as he reveals his nefarious schemes. One of those listening in would be Gabrielle who makes Braddock both sinister and sexy, an exotic dangerous beauty who will “kiss you deadly” without a moment’s hesitation. On the flip side, there’s Ali as Chloe who has tart chemistry with Nate, though she can’t quite be fully trusted since her past with Sully has made her much wiser…and wiley.
The action sequences are strung together with a manic pace by director Ruben Fleischer, who has jettisoned the subversive satire of his ZOMBIELAND films for gravity-defying (and physics-ignoring) set pieces to keep kids glued to their seats. Unfortunately, these CGI-enhanced stunt exercises are exhausting and eventually monotonous as the film tries to “top” itself and forgo more character development to keep moving to the next exotic locale. Plus the three (!) screenwriters should know better than to namedrop Indiana Jones and Jack Sparrow which reminds the audience of much-better adventure extravaganzas. Holland’s tossed around here as much as the wallcrawler, but he, like most of the characters, may just be made of pixels as they bounce back quicker than the Looney Tunes troupe. At least Indy had some “mileage” as Nate doffs his shirt baring a chest free of scrapes and bruises. And like most thrillers, they don’t know how to wrap things up as they sprinkle in mid-credits “bonus’ scenes to tempt us with future sequels (oh they surely hope). Aside from the future software exploits, this will probably end the big screen capers of Nate and Sully. It’s a shame since Holland and Wahlberg have an easy-going rapport. They’re deserving of a better outing than this “kiddie-spin” (aside from the patricide and some throat-slitting) on the modern swashbucklers that’s more uninspired than UNCHARTED.
2 out of 4
UNCHARTED opens in theatres everywhere