Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#1,542. A View to a KIll (1985)

Directed By: John Glen

Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts

Tag line: "Adventure Above And Beyond All Other Bonds"

Trivia: Roger Moore celebrated his 57th birthday during filming, making him the oldest actor to play Bond

Being a child of the ‘80s, I enjoy the music of Duran Duran; their mega-hit "Hungry Like the Wolf" had a fun video that played constantly on Mtv (I remember it having a Raiders of the Lost Ark-like vibe), though my favorite tune of theirs will always be the upbeat “Rio”. I’m also a fan of the title song they performed for the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, which marked Roger Moore’s final appearance as Her Majesty’s top secret agent. Unfortunately, the movie itself wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the song. Simply put, A View to a Kill is one of the worst, if not the worst, films in the entire series.

After traveling to Siberia to recover a top-secret microchip from the remains of murdered agent 003, James Bond (Moore) is assigned to keep an eye on millionaire businessman Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), who owns a stable of prize-winning thoroughbred horses. When one of his horses wins a race it should have lost, Bond teams up with noted trainer Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) to find out why. The most logical explanation is that Zorin is somehow drugging the horses during the race, an allegation that French private eye Achille Aubergine (Jean Rougerie) was looking into right up to the moment he was murdered by the millionaire’s right-hand gal, the deadly May Day (Grace Jones). Things get even dicier at an equestrian auction hosted by the tycoon, where Tibbett is killed and 007 himself is nearly knocked off. Soon after, Bond has a chance encounter with Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), whose family’s oil business was taken over by Zorin. It’s at this point Bond realizes the millionaire is up to much more than fixing races. In fact, Zorin has a plan that, if successful, will cause one of the biggest earthquakes in California’s history, all in an attempt to wipe out Silicon Valley and corner the world market on microchip manufacturing. But now that Bond has discovered Zorin’s devious scheme, how will he go about stopping it?

Even a Bond movie as dismal as A View to a Kill has a few moments worth mentioning (the operative word being “few”). Along with Duran Duran’s rendition of the title song, I enjoyed the opening credits sequence (sexy as always), and some of the action scenes were fairly entertaining, notably the final showdown set atop San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Most remarkable of all, though, was Grace Jones’ May Day, a bad-ass henchman (henchwoman?) who, if she was given more to do, might have ranked among the best in the series, right up there with Goldfinger’s Oddjob and Richard Kiel’s Jaws (who appeared in both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker).

Alas, the remaining aspects of A View to a Kill are less impressive. One of the film’s biggest disappointments is the performance of Christopher Walken as Zorin. Normally a fascinating actor, Walken is far too flamboyant in the role, and as a result we never take the character seriously (Bond villains don’t usually smile as much as Zorin does). Tanya Roberts’ Stacy Sutton, the Bond girl of this particular piece, was also a letdown in that she was boring as hell (a brief 5-miinute segment with Soviet agent Pola Ivanova, played by Fiona Fullerton, had more sex appeal than all of Roberts’ scenes combined). Not even the gadgets are interesting, ranging from a pair of sunglasses that allowed Bond to see through tinted glass (yawn) to a ridiculous mobile robot that “Q” (Desmond Llewellyn) created early on, and which served no functional purpose throughout the entire movie (in a way, it reminded me of “K-9”, the mechanical pooch that hung around with the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who).

Most problematic of all was Bond himself, as portrayed by a 57-year-old Roger Moore (who looked as if he was in mid-60s). Clearly too old for the part, Moore seemed to struggle with minor tasks (like running up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower during an early face-off against Jones’ May Day), and at times relied on his stunt double to handle scenes he would have tackled himself 10 years earlier (including some of the fistfights). Sure, the movie has misplaced humor. It wouldn’t be a Roger Moore Bond film without it. In fact, the comedy starts early; during the pre-title sequence set in Siberia, Bond has to escape enemy agents by gliding down a snowy mountain on a single ski (a precursor of sorts to snowboarding), and as he does so we’re treated to The Beach Boys singing “California Girls” (One ski… surfing… get it?). But as bad as some of the jokes are (one scene, involving a car that breaks apart while Bond is driving it, is particularly cringe-inducing), it's Moore’s age, and not his sense of humor, that brings A View to a Kill to its knees.

The seven films featuring Roger Moore as Ian Fleming’s super spy were a mixed bag: some good (The Spy Who Loved Me) and some not-so-good (The Man with the Golden Gun). A View to a Kill is the only truly awful 007 movie Moore appeared in, and it’s a damn shame the actor went out on such a sour note.


David said...

I too have a soft spot for this theme tune Doc. When I was little my parents would put on a cassette tape of James Bond songs when we were taking car journeys and I always remember "View To a Kill" and "The Living Daylights" standing out to young self as the most exciting. Something about that dramatic 80's pop sound was really appealing to me when I was a kid. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed when I actually saw "View to a Kill" with the expectation that it would share the same cool, gritty energy as its theme song and it turned out to mainly be about horse-racing.

Hoosier X said...

"Moonraker" is the worst James Bond film.

And it's officially the worst James Bond film. I saw it on a James Bond fansite, so it must be true.

Anonymous said...

Cool, great 57 young! ...I consider myself a great 007 groupie; & yet I assume Shaun Connery was the oldestBond. Thanks 4 the update.