I hate when I get disappointed.

I settle into my seat, all ready to see a bloated, hapless and needlessly confusing ego trip and the darn thing doesn't live up to my expectations. I mean the trailer was a horrible, dull mishmash of cliches and hokum, the title was downright silly and there was more buzz for Jimmy Neutron and Barbie in the Nutcracker combined.

So naturally the movie kicks total ass.

The film is Spy Game. And what do you know, it's good. Exciting, tense, well-acted, tight, smart, worthy of praise. Weird.

The film begins in 1991. Brad Pitt is captured and thrown into a Chinese prison for being a spy. In order to avoid an international incident, the CIA is playing dumb and letting the Chinese execute Pitt, no questions asked. Cut to Pitt's CIA mentor, Robert Redford at CIA headquarters. He's retiring at the end of the day, but before he rides off into the sunset, he has 24 hours to find a way to save Pitt's life.

Much of movie is spent in a series of vivid flashbacks as Redford tells Pitt's story to a bunch of CIA bigwigs. What develops are two stories on top of each other. Through the flashbacks, we slowly see who Pitt is, and why he ended up in a Chinese prison in 1991. Meanwhile, Redford is pulling strings, cutting corners, calling in favors and playing the game under everyone's noses in order to save Pitt, half a world away.

So I sat there, munching my Milk Duds, ticked off as I watched a compelling story of life in the CIA unfold in front of me. I wanted cheese! I wanted stupidity! I wanted Brad Pitt stumbling around like a three-legged llama on hashish! Pitt's great! He even takes his shirt off a couple of times, though usually because he's being beaten severely, so it's not quite the glamour shot you'd expect. There's a pretty cute babe in it, but the romance is neither gratuitous nor thrown in for a flesh shot. Redford is totally commanding up on the screen, riveting.

I want my money back.

All good spy movies roam around the world. But after the opening sequence, Pitt is in a dark Chinese prison and Redford is locked in an office building. I thought to myself, "Ha! No way will we get to see all sorts of exotic locations! It's a damn talking heads movie!"

Then, of course, Redford began telling the back story and so we got extended stays in Vietnam, East Berlin and Beirut. Not exactly three little suburbs filled with Starbucks and Blockbusters. So, OK, everywhere they go people are trying to kill them, bomb them, expose them, what have you. And it's all very darned fun to watch. Makes me sick.

Well what about gadgets? Spies have cool gadgets, right?

Well yeah, and Pitt and Redford have their share of stuff, it's just more realistic. No exploding pens, but they use common household objects like bubble gum and lube to do their dirty work.

And what really brings everything into focus is how you can never be totally sure that Redford and/or Pitt are doing the right thing. We root for them, they're the good guys, but their assignments aren't always as nice as helping Handicapped Grandmas across the street, if you know what I mean.

Stopped at every turn. The movie's just not nearly lame enough. I was hoping to save my Babylons for more interesting and buzz-filled upcoming movies, like Lord of the Rings or Ocean's Eleven, but it turns out I have to hand out a whopping 4 Babylons for this pic. I feel cheated.

That's 4 out of 5, for anyone who ever wondered or cared.

Editor's Note:

Ah, our little boy is all grown up.

Spy Game
Rated: R
Directed By: Tony Scott
Starring: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and bad guys. Evil people in Vietnam, evil people in East Berlin, lots of evil people in Beirut, I swear, the movie's chock full of evil-doers.