The Double, Michael Brandt’s post–Cold War spy film, is grade-B hokum, but it’s not without its occasional generic thrills. Apparently more adept at staging individual set-pieces than he is at building tension, creating believable characters, or stringing together a coherent narrative, Brandt places his best sequence, a successful jailbreak turned grisly murder, near the film’s beginning, and he at least keeps the action coming. Which is fortunate because everything else about the film, which involves the odd-couple pairing of grizzled out-of-retirement CIA agent Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) and Harvard-hotshot/FBI rookie Ben Geary (Topher Grace) in order to catch the newly resurfaced Russian assassin known only as “Cassisus,” is downright risible. Whether it’s the clumsy use of flashbacks, the air of manufactured portentousness, or the completely unbelievable casting of Grace in a role that requires a certain authority utterly lacking in the actor’s performance, almost every move seems a misstep. Brandt’s worst blunder is to give away one of the film’s biggest reveals early on, a strategy that not only eliminates a key element of suspense, but forces the filmmaker to pile on a series of more and more outrageous twists at the end.
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