Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A View to a Kill

Roger Moore gets a bad rap as a Bond. I never used to get that, since he was in the movie that got me hooked on the series, For Your Eyes Only. It was fantastic, an exciting and interesting film that I might cover one day, though I do own it so lord knows when. More importantly, Moore was good in it, giving me my initial idea of what Bond should be.

Well, around when Casino Royale came out, I decided that I should watch all the Bond films in order, and I got it. He really only had two great films, two acceptable ones, and three of the worst. This film was one of the acceptable ones, I thought, though the consensus seems to be that it was a series low light. Truth be told, it has some serious problems, but I can never say it's bad.

The oft cited problem with this film rests with Moore, specifically how he had aged into a creepy old man by the time shooting started. That age seeps into the film as a whole, starting in the stuffy world of horse racing. It seems to be a very interesting world only to those old enough to give a crap about top hats, so fairly dull for most people. That's not it though, Moore is much too comfortable in the role, often sleepwalking and pulling out his eyebrow ticks rather than acting, which becomes really obvious when better actors are on the screen.

There are other problems too. The evil scheme is basically lifted from Goldfinger, albeit with a geological twist. It is yet another film that suffers from what I'll call the Tara Reid Rule of Science, essentially stating that the girl least capable of conveying intelligence will always be cast as a scientist, in this case the mildly ditzy - though likable - Tanya Roberts.

However, there are things to like as well. Being obsessed with film stock, I love how it's an 80s film that actually looks good. The score is pretty great, apart from one really unfortunate audio joke in the first stunt sequence. Also, the last half hour is exciting and fun, elevating the movie to acceptable.

But the best part is the two villains, played by Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.
Walken plays a Nazi experiment gone horribly awry who wants to destroy Silicon Valley, and he clearly has great fun with the role. The only problem is he's so good he acts cartwheels around Moore whenever they share the screen, highlighting just how lazy Moore was being. Jones is an freakishly toned visual presence, who is absolutely fantastic just through her body language and her look. She's got a bizarre androgynous appearance, and it takes over the screen whenever she appears.

Between the two, they make the movie watchable, and elevate it from what should logically be a lesser Bond into a mid-range Bond. It would never be great, Moore was a bit too old and the series needed a little kick in the pants, but it's still enjoyable, and it's not a crushing piece of rubbish like his worst examples (Man with the Golden Gun being the most flagrant example). Still Walken and Jones save the movie from oblivion, if only they could have been in a finer example of the breed.

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