A View to a Kill

February 2, 2011

With a Jones to a Kill

Every since 1980’s Moonraker—a vapid, terrible movie—the James Bond series has been undergoing an unexpected renaissance. The last few entries have been surprisingly enjoyable adventure movies.

Perhaps it’s because star Roger Moore doesn’t feel he has to prove himself in the role that really belongs to Sean Connery. Moore is all relaxation these days, and the Bond films—still guided by producer Albert (Cubby) Broccoli, who’s been on board since the first Bond picture, Dr. No, in 1962—whirl around him with solid special effects, some (but not too much) glitzy gadgetry, spectacular stunts, and gorgeous women.

A View to a Kill, the one for summer ’85, fulfills the Bond formula very well. Directed by John Glen, who also did a clean job directing For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, this adventure takes Bond from the Siberian wasteland (in the pre-credits teaser, which is camped up by the use of “California Girls” on the soundtrack), to the high society of Paris, to a nifty high-wire act atop the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Most important, this film boasts some fine villains for Bond to play against—and that’s always an important part of the 007 experience. Christopher Walken is the blond, psychotic madman who seeks to—dare we say it?—rule the world, through a devious plan to destroy Silicon Valley and control the world’s microchip sales through his own company. Walken injects lots of little bizarre nuances into his performance, and he seems to be enjoying himself immensely.

His chief henchman (henchperson?) is played by Grace Jones, the androgynous singer. A clever casting idea, and Jones, with her stunning looks, keeps the film from getting stodgy. German actor Patrick Bauchau (the husband in Choose Me) lends his powerful presence as another of Walken’s baddies.

The good girl is Tanya Roberts, who looks great but is pretty insipid. She is, unfortunately, much less interesting than the villains, so the audience’s subconscious sympathies may get confused.

Moore, collecting more wrinkles as the years go by, is bland but smooth, gliding through a party at a French chateau in trademark white dinner jacket, jumping around on the Eiffel Tower, hanging from a rope attached to a blimp, or scuttling around one of the Golden Gate’s towers. It’s business as usual for the man with the license to kill.

It’s business as usual all around. A View to a Kill—theme song by Duran Duran this time out, by the way—won’t knock anybody’s socks off, and it doesn’t’ resemble anything like great cinema. But then, it doesn’t attempt anything more than the playing out of its familiar formula. As such, it must be counted a success. Certainly in box-office terms it has a rosy future.

At the end of the Bond films, there’s always a tag line in the credits: “James Bond will return in…” fill in the title. This time, we just get the vague assurance that “James Bond will return.” Hmmm. Something’s up—Roger Moore may be getting a bit long in the tooth for all the action. I’m guessing this will be his last outing as Bond, but the character will probably go on forever. They’ve replaced him before, after all.

First published in the Herald, May 23, 1985

This is the best I could do right now for a John Barry tribute—where the hell’s my Out of Africa review? I’m not sure A View to a Kill has worn well for 007 fans, but apparently I liked it, and that zany cast of villains seemed fun at the time. I’m guessing Grace Jones hasn’t aged well in the role. (Richard Kiel must’ve been pissed.) In 1985, it was still possible to write “Walken injects lots of little bizarre nuances into his performance” without that seeming like an obvious point. John Barry has brought more to the Bond franchise than perhaps it deserved (his You Only Live Twice is the movie I remember, not the actual film), and although I guess I should be embarrassed to say this I think his Duran Duran collaboration suited the Bond world rather well.