We chat quite a bit “problematic faves” here at The Fandomentals, and for good reason. You can enjoy problematic content, so long as you’re aware of those issues. That said, I’ve got one where I’m utterly at a loss to explain my enjoyment at all: Bond, James Bond. It’s a character built on misogyny, and even the “best” movies of the series nearly incomprehensible with the leaps in logic.
Well, I didn’t watch a top quality Bond the other day. No, instead, as a way of getting excited for my trip to New Orleans this weekend, I decided to watch Roger Moore’s debut film, Live and Let Die. In some ways you might consider this a “quintessential Bond film.” Though Sean Connery brought Ian Flemming’s character to life, it was Moore that brought the camp which defines most of the series. But if this truly is representative of the franchise as a whole…then holy shit. My fave is beyond problematic and I’m starting to wonder if it’s only a fave due to Poe’s Law.
The misogyny of this film is a sledgehammer; the racism of this film is a team of wrecking balls continually smashing you in the face. Which I guess isn’t shocking, because it was literally an action film by white people that tried to incorporate characteristics of the “blaxploitation” genre, which had gained popularity in the early 70s. Needless to say its attempts to do so left behind a movie that is offensive to the point of distraction. Seriously, it is impossible to go 2 seconds without thinking, “but this is just so racist!”
And if somehow you can look past every single black person in New York City working together to kill Bond, a fortune teller whose gift is literally fucked away, or the island of ‘San Monique,’ whose dictator utilizes 100% well-researched Haitian Vodou as a means of keeping his opium fields safe, you’re left with a horribly infeasible conflict and so much plot armor, it could make the stakes of Hardhome feel real.
So of course I’m going to take you on a journey through this movie, so that you can share in its wonder with me.
The pre-title sequence consists of three scenes where white people are murdered by black people. First, an MI6 agent sitting behind the UK table at what appears to be the UN is killed when a black hand plugs something funky into the audio port to which his translator headphones are connected. Literally, it’s death-by-headhpones. And we see this other black guy sitting calmly at his table for the great country of San Monique, so we get the impression he knows something.
Over in New Orleans, another MI6 agent is obviously watching a “Fillet of Soul” restaurant, when a funeral procession marches by, all consisting of black people. Like, 50-75 members, maybe? Then another [what race…you guessed it…black] dude walks up and stabs the MI6 agent. The funeral procession picks him up in the coffin, and then it turns into a really fun parade!
Finally, we go to San Monique, where there’s some sort of Voodoo party going on. Maybe some of that Voodoo includes the inexplicable mixing of Spanish and French in the island’s name? But it’s this sort of excited, sex-party atmosphere, a la the maenads in True Blood before I gave up on that show. A white dude is tied to the stakes, and one of the locals dances around while wearing a goat head. He picks up a snake out of a coffin, and kills the guy with it, even though it’s hilariously obvious that this is just a rubber snake he lightly touches to his neck.
Then comes the title sequence, which given Paul McCartney’s song, is easily the highlight of this film. Though is it worth pointing out that even here, the black women all become skulls, while the white women dance around with what is some of the strangest choreography I’ve seen to date?
Cut to Bond in bed with a random woman who is begging for more sex in a thick, Italian accent. Sadly for her, there’s a knock on the door, and M—you know, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service—just barges in, tells James that there’s work to be done, name drops the three agents who were killed in the field/their locations, and tells him that he needs to start packing. Judi Dench would have never been so stoopid.
Fortunately for James, in addition to being a secret agent, he’s an aspiring barista, so he is able to distract M by making him a latte. Seriously, he froths the milk and everything. Even more fortunately, Moneypenny is a fantastic bro, who helps the random Italian chick (turns out she’s an agent too) hide in a closet until M leaves. She also gives Bond his watch, fixed up from Q, and we learn that there’s a powerful magnet in it. This wouldn’t be important at all, except once they leaves, Bond immediately turns it on so that he can unzip the Italian agent’s dress.
Oh, that reminds me. The puns.
Random Italian Agent: Such a delicate touch.
Bond: Sheer magnetism, darling.
I’ll let you know when we get to my favorite of these. But Bond, you have a fucking mission; go pack!
We then cut to a scene of an airplane landing, interspersed with a fortune teller flipping tarot cards to…describe commercial air travel. Thrilling.
In addition to thinking about the racism of this film every 2 seconds, you’re going to be asking yourself, “but why don’t they just kill Bond??” every 4.
This begins almost immediately. Bond lands in NYC and gets in a taxi to meet up with our favorite CIA agent, Felix Leiter. I guess either from Solitaire’s awesome tarot reading, or the fact that it’s very reasonable for MI6 to send someone to investigate the murders of 3 field agents, Kananga, the man who runs what I can only characterize as the Great Black Consortium (GBC from now on…or da Bad Guys™), immediately knows that Bond is a dangerous man who should be eliminated. So a car that has side mirrors armed with some kind of gun pulls up next to the cab and the shoots…not Bond! They just kill the driver, and that almost kills Bond, but he steers the car to safety.
It’s probably here that I should tell you who “Solitaire” is. She is played by Jane Seymour. She is white, but an honorary member of the GBC. She is a tarot-card reader with mystical powers connected to her “virginity.” Yes.
Oh, something else about this movie: there’s a couple of times that Bond lands himself in some serious scrapes and needs his CIA contacts to pick him up and help deal with the local authorities. But every time this happens, Felix just shakes his head and is like, “oh Bond that rascal,” rather than, I don’t know, show any concern for the implications?
At the CIA hotel, we learn that Kananga’s official job is being the dictator of San Monique. He also has a PhD in something, because people call him “Dr.” They have his embassy bugged, but he’s able to slip the authorities with the same exact method Mary Kate and Ashley use to get away from their parents in Holiday in the Sun.
Anyway, the CIA may not have been able to tell that there was a running tape recorder, but they at least give Bond a lead on the car with the gun in its mirror, which is leased to a Voodoo shop, because of course it is. Bond heads there. The women working behind the desk is black, so that should immediately tip you off that she’s part of the GBC, which is quickly confirmed when he slips out the back of the shop to check out the car, and she contacts *someone* with the message “he’s tailing.”
Anyway, Kananga’s crew (Solitaire and a few henchmen, most notably “Mr. Whisper” and “Tee Hee”) slip into the exact same parking garage, because it’s connected to both a Voodoo shop and an embassy, and drive to Harlem. Bond hails a cab and asks his [black] driver to follow them.
“Man, for 20 bucks, I’d take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout.”
Then we’re treated to a scene where we learn that every single black person in the city is part of the GBC. Literally, random people will stop what they’re doing on the streets and radio in to *someone* “he’s heading east,” or something of the like. Then when Bond gets out of the cab at its destination, a Fillet of Soul restaurant, the cabbie himself tells *someone* “he’s headin’ on in.” So…if the cabbie was working for the GBC, then why did these randos need to file a report too? Or why didn’t the cabbie just kill him?
Instead, Bond gets seated in a booth at the Fillet of Soul, but whoops it’s a trap, and the booth spins around to reveal some kind of like…waiting room? Solitaire is there doing a tarot reading, and we see Tee Hee, the henchman with a hook hand that looks worse than Buster’s from Arrested Development.
Here’s an idea? How about they just kill Bond? Like right now. He’s right there. But nah, Bond simply mills around as if he’s waiting for his appointment at the optometrist’s office. He goes and nudges Solitaire a bit, and poor Jane Seymour. She’s trying to take this so seriously. For some reason all of her cards say “007” on the back of them too, but that’s neither here nor there. More to get him away than anything else, she tells him to pick a card. It’s The Fool. “You have found yourself.” Har har.
Anyway, the doctor is finally in, and it’s this guy named Mr. Big, who literally pops his head out for 3 seconds and tells the guards in the room to “take him out back and waste him.” Actually, sorry, he says “Y’all take this honky out and waste him – now!”
Bond tries to make a joke to Solitaire, but she’s all “this reading is over,” as if this was supposed to be a formal reading in the first place. But after he pesters her a little more, she allows him one card about his future. It’s The Lovers. Jane Seymour acts her face off looking stunned.
Bond is then led into the alley by two GBC randos who decide it’d be really fun to make him walk a 5K before actually shooting him, so of course he figures out how to beat them (he slams a fire escape stairwell in their face). Then another black guy appears, but here’s the twist: he works for the CIA and isn’t in the GBC! Seriously, the movie presents this like it’s shocking information. He scolds Bond for wearing a “white face in Harlem.” Then he tells him that the only man who can pull together so many GBC members is the crime boss named “Mr. Big.”
Which is anticlimactic, because we literally just met Mr. Big 4 seconds ago. He told his henchmen to go waste Bond… Ah, never mind.
So now with a lead in NYC, Bond decides to go…to San Monique. Because Kananga went there? The movie never really explains why a dictator returning to his home is suspicious, but he is traveling with the same guys who were in the Fillet of Soul, so, sure. Fine.
Bond checks into a hotel where Baron Samedi, or the “Voodoo god of cemeteries and chief of the legion of the dead” is a “performer in a little musical extravaganza” for the other guests. Except his entire routine seems to be pointing at people and laughing.
The guy behind the hotel tells Bond that “Mrs. Bond” is already there, and gives him a key. Bond is clearly suspicious so he goes to his room and…strips into a fluffy robe, bathes, and shaves. He also checks the room for bugs (there’s 2), calls and orders a bottle of Bollinger, oh and kills a snake with aftershave that doubles as a flamethrower. Who dropped the snake in? Why did they think a snake was the best way to kill him? Why didn’t Mr. Whisper just like, shoot him (Mr. Whisper is a tubby member of the GBC who was the one driving the car that shot Bond’s cabbie back in NYC, and is now pretending to work for the hotel staff. Did I not mention? Who cares.)?
Don’t worry, now it’s time to get serious, because the door is opening, and someone with a gun is walking in. Bond can’t get to his own in time, so he settles on burning the person’s wrist with his cigar, and then throwing her onto the bed.
That’s right, folks, it’s time to meet Rosie! She claims she was sent by Felix to keep an eye on Bond, but she’s also black, so I’m not sure we should trust that. She also opens with “I guess I have some explaining to do,” as if she’s a naughty school child who is being disciplined by the principal. No, lady, you are an agent who is assigned to be here. Not that it won’t stop Bond from infantilizing her.
Bond decides to try and fuck her, because why not, but she actually rejects him. However, that is immediately recanted when she goes into her bedroom and spots a bowler hat with bloody chicken feathers sticking out of it. She screams that it’s a trap, and then begs Bond not to leave her alone that night.
Okay, pause, I don’t want to shock you, but Rosie is a member of the GBC. She’s a double agent? Like, it’s unclear. She works for Kananga, but I literally can’t tell if she was working for Felix at any point. Bond doesn’t think to call him, and Felix doesn’t think to give him a heads up. Bond gets alerted to her treachery when Solitaire mails him a Queen of Cups card in an “upside-down position.” Well, it actually just falls out of an envelope, but I guess it’s upside-down.
I also cannot tell if Rosie is feigning fear at the hat or not. She is clearly playing Bond, as any GBC member would do, so acting kind of stupid and afraid as a way of seeming innocent would be reasonable for her. Except that the narrative confirms how she is stupid and afraid. So…I’m not sure where this leaves us at all. At the intersection of Racism St. and Misogyny Blvd., I imagine.
And not to belabor the point, but why didn’t Rosie just kill Bond at their hotel after sleeping with him? She was in the perfect position to do that. Isn’t it what the GBC wants? When Mr. Big said “waste him,” that had to be literal, right?
Anyway, Bond and Rosie (who hasn’t yet been revealed as a double agent) set off to check out the place where the MI6 agent died via rubber snake, so they get on a boat captained by a random black dude. The real fun of this movie, by the way, is that you become conditioned to be suspicious of every black person on your screen. Charming. Apparently Rosie is suspicious too, because when she goes below deck to “change” (aka just take off her clothes to reveal a bikini…why did she need privacy for this?) she discovers that the captain is hiding a gun, and when she comes up on deck, it looks like he’s about to strangle Bond with rope. So she tells him to freeze even though she shouldn’t care if Bond dies, right? Then we’re treated to one of the best and least misogynistic lines ever:
“As I was saying, Quarrel, a lousy agent, but the compensations speak for themselves.”
The sex compensations.
Also it turns out that Quarrel (Jr.) is one of the two good black dudes in this movie, and he’s also just some cute fanservice. Oh and Rosie had left the safety on her gun when she was threatening him. Where does her stoopid act end, and her actual stoopid begin? ¯\_(シ)_/¯
So Quarrel’s awesome boating skills take them to Solitaire’s house, which is this sweet mansion on a cliff-face. Inside, Jane Seymour is still showing up everyone else’s acting skills by doing a reading for Kananga about Bond, and having to be shocked and scared when she pulls a Lovers card again. But she covers her own ass to Kananga and tells him it’s Death. It’s at this point we learn that Solitaire’s power is tied to her “purity,” and when the “time comes,” Kananga himself plans to “take it from her,” as he apparently did her mother. I LOVE all of these implications!!!
Meanwhile, Rosie’s double agent act is going horribly, because she’s an actual idiot. Women, amirite? She changes up her story about where the MI6 agent was killed (it’s “down there” now), and Bond being all sneaky and smart suggests that they go fuck in the grass because he’s not in any hurry, despite the fact that she seems to be now. Dude, you’re kind of on a mission.
So whatever, they make out a little, and then Bond decides to pull out his Queen of Cups card, which is a warning that Rosie is a “deceitful, perverse woman. A liar, a cheat.” However, Rosie spots an EVHUL SCARECROW so she knows that the GBC people are watching and gonna kill her if she talks. Bond pulls a gun on her and says he’ll kill her if she doesn’t. She just kind of runs off, clearly terrified. Aaand, runs into the line of another scarecrow which shoots her.
Two things: 1.) She didn’t betray the GBC; she literally ran from Bond knowing he might shoot her in the back, so why did they kill her exactly? and 2.) BOND WAS IN FRONT OF THAT SCARECROW THIS WHOLE TIME. CLEAR SHOT, MAN.
Who cares, because then this happens with Jane Seymour’s hair and nothing else matters for the rest of the movie:
Anyway, I guess because there’s nowhere else to go, Bond breaks into Solitaire’s house, sits in her cool chair, and fucks with her cards…romantically?
She tells him to GTFO, but he says, “oohh ohh, pick a card if you really think I’m meant to go.” So she draws a card and it’s The Lovers. Then they make out, and as they do, it’s revealed that the entire deck is nothing but The Lovers.
Which, 1.) This is rape. I mean, I guess “rape by deception” wasn’t really a thing understood in the 70s, but David O. Selznick figured out that marital rape was a thing in 1939, so suck on that. 2.) Are we meant to believe that Bond bought 78 packs of tarot cards, sorted through all of them, and put together a complete “The Lovers” set, which he then had in his pocket all day? Did he even know they were going to Solitaire’s house?
Anyway, in bed, Solitaire starts to have a little bit of a breakdown because she, you know, just lost her powers and if Kananga finds out he’s going to fucking kill her. Fortunately Bond is really sensitive to her needs:
However, she has these odd emotional fluctuations between being absolutely petrified about her fate, and being absolutely randy and desperate for more of the sex. When Bond tells her that he’s going to take her with him to inspect this MI6 agent’s death (why?), she begs him to get back in bed with her first. Which leads to the absolute best pun in this movie:
Bond: There’s no sense in going off half-cocked.
So the next morning, Bond and Solitaire follow the path of scarecrows that killed Rosie, and we see from a cutaway scene that the GBC is, in fact, watching them. Why are they not shot? Then they hear random flute music, so Bond the SECRET AGENT just marches his ass up and says “hai” to the player. It’s Baron Samedi, btw, without makeup, and apparently Solitaire doesn’t recognize him. And his flute has a radio hidden in it, which I’m pretty sure would have messed with its sound, but whatever.
Meanwhile, Kananga gives the order, “if he finds it, kill him.” That’s very…magnanimous of him considering they’ve been low-key trying to murder Bond for a while now. Is that what Rosie’s job was? To allow Bond to “find it”? What is this plan??
“It,” btw is a crapload of poppy plants hidden under nets. So a helicopter comes to gun Bond (and Solitaire) down, even though Kananga tells everyone that he wants her alive. Then Kananga says, “any cost. Any. Bond must die.” This is brand new information.
Bond and Solitaire run through the poppy fields to a small town, where the local police are all part of the GBC. Though I guess this makes sense because Kananga is literally their dictator. Anyway, Bond steals a double-decker bus, and there’s a wacky chase scene, including some hilariously dramatic music as we pass a sign for “low bridge.” It turns out okay though.
They get back to Quarrel’s boat, and Bond tells Solitaire that it’s all over, and they can go anywhere she wants. “Anywhere they have one of these,” she says, lying back onto a bed. Turns out he’s still a manipulative sack of shit though, because his idea is to go to New Orleans (where that third MI6 agent was killed) to investigate things, and use her as bait, I guess to draw out whatever Kananga connections there might be in that city. Except that the MI6 agent who was killed at the beginning had already been staking out the Fillet of Soul, so it’s not as if there hadn’t been a lead.
Once there, Bond and Solitaire get into a taxi cab without bothering to check, I guess because Bond either figures that he’s walking into a trap and is happy about that fact, or he has learned absolutely nothing since the start of this movie. I know I fall into the latter category. So yeah, turns out the driver is the same exact cabbie as the one in NYC who made the KKK joke. He makes the locks on the door disappear and says that Mr. Big wants to see them because Bond “took something that belonged to a friend of his.” Do you get it? Solitaire is property.
He drives them to this airplane on a landing strip, where a henchman of Mild Importance (who isn’t Mr. Whisper or Tee Hee) tells Bond that he’s going skydiving. Apparently this henchman’s name is “Adam.” I find that hilarious.
Then Solitaire I guess decides to act as though she was kidnapped so she won’t get instantly killed by Kananga, while also using these wiles to give Bond an escape opportunity.
It’s deadly effective. Bond gets away, runs a little, and then finds a small shitty plane that belongs to some kind of pilot school, which he climbs into. There’s this 80-year-old woman inside who was waiting for her instructor, so Bond says he’s the substitute or something. Then there’s another wacky chase scene that ends with the old lady saying a knee-slapping “holy shit.” Like, you can tell the writers were giggling.
We then cut to a scene of Felix patching things up with the owner of the pilot school, because apparently the CIA has never heard of administrative assistants. Hey, remember the good black guy who wasn’t Quarrel from this movie? The one who saved Bond’s white face in Harlem? Well he’s now staking out the New Orleans Fillet of Soul. Except, that same funeral procession of GBC members pops up again, so he dies.
Felix and Bond go to meet him though, and when they don’t see him outside, they just fucking walk into the Fillet of Soul. That they’re supposed to be staking out. Which they apparently aren’t worried about despite Bond’s “nasty turn in the booth” back at Harlem’s Fillet of Soul. In fact, Felix orders them Sazeracs and tells Bond “this is New Orleans. Relax.” YOU ARE TRYING TO STAKEOUT A MOB BOSS CONNECTED WITH AN OPIUM-GROWING DICTATOR.
Felix gets pulled away from the table with a phone call, leaving Bond to watch the singer on stage. Who is implied as being a member of the GBC, because she makes Eye-Contact of Extreme Significance as the table gets lowered through a trap door. None of the people eating seem to give any shits, but as we’re about to find out, they’re consuming opiates. Not too sure why Felix wasn’t worth kidnapping, btw.
Anyway, down below, Mr. Big starts screaming at Bond and demanding if he had sex with Solitaire (“asking for a friend”), because apparently this was the only way to get that information. Also she’s sitting right there, but fuck if anyone bother asking for her opinion.
When Bond tells him that he won’t give the info to a lackey, Mr. Big pulls at his face, which we realize is prosthetic, and guess who’s beneath? It’s Kananga! Emboldened by the impressive reveal, he then divulges his entire plan!
I apparently drew this a couple of years ago, but sums it pretty well:
I think the only snag in the plan is the fact that these new opiate addicts wouldn’t know they were addicts? Maybe? It seems like it’s just going in the soul food directly, but I could be wrong and the nuance is just too much for me. Or maybe the plan was always to make really pricey food.
But forget the plan, it’s time to get back to the important stuff: did Bond and Solitaire bone? This time, Bond says he’s a gentleman and won’t say either way. So Kananga decides to test Solitaire, which couldn’t have been done before, apparently. He has Tee Hee take Bond’s hand in his claw, and says that he will lose a finger if Solitaire’s tarot cards can’t tell her what his watch’s registration numbers are. She clearly guesses, and Kananga seems satisfied, giving Tee Hee an Official Nod. Then he tells the dude to take Bond “to the farm.” I assume to kill him.
Want to know something funny? He could have just shot Bond right there. Like 20 times. Bond was even strapped to the chair and had no method of escape.
Once Teehee, Adam, and Bond go off “to the farm,” Baron Samedi just saunters in for no reason, and does his best to annoy Kananga:
But that dude is already upset, because the registration number guess was wrong! And now Solitaire must die, because it was his right to rape her, not Bond’s! But they can’t kill her there; she has to die “at one proper time.”
“The farm” turns out to be a literal crocodile farm (not alligators, because what is geography?), except inside its main building, there’s people packing heroin. Tee Hee is a great tour guide, until he leaves Bond on a tiny ass island surrounded by crocs. However, rather than watch and make sure Bond actually dies, he and Adam just kind of shrug and head inside. Bond hops to safety on the back of the crocodiles’ backs.
Then I guess he wants to say “no” to drugs, because he torches the place, hops in a boat, and drives off. Adam gives pursuit in a car and other rando GBC members find boats of their own.
It’s at this point that we meet Sheriff JW Pepper, the hilarious Louisiana redneck. He pulls over Adam, and is clearly a giant racist dick, but at the same time Adam is trying to kill Bond, so…
Meanwhile, the boat chase cuts over the land right where this ticketing is happening, and JW gets a boat through his cop car (allowing Adam to drive off).
I don’t really know how to explain this chase for the rest of it. Bond is in his boat the whole time, but half the focus becomes JW. He hops in the back of a cop car with two random officers who I think work for him, but clearly hate him.
And frankly, for good reason because he’s an odious person.
This isn’t made better by the fact that JW just starts randomly talking about his brother-in-law, Billy Bob, because Billy Bob has the fastest boat on the river, and Billy Bob will catch them, and literally every other word out of his mouth is “Billy Bob.” Sadly for the actual Billy Bob, Adam knocks him out and takes his boat, which leads to a mildly interesting chase? Ish?
Bond ends up getting away, and Adam blows up in the process.
I wonder if there’s a GPS app that incorporates JW’s catch phrases.
We’re then treated to another scene where Felix shakes his head at Bond, the lovable scamp, rather than like, act as though he narrowly escaped death. Oh, then he casually tosses out “we busted the Fillet of Soul over an hour ago.” WHY DID THIS NOT HAPPEN BEFORE? LIKE RIGHT AFTER BOND WAS TAKEN IN THE HARLEM ONE? IT’S CLEARLY OWNED BY THE SAME PERSON.
Apparently Felix is also omniscient, and knows that Bond needs to go to San Monique again, because Kananga just got on a plane there (maybe in the bust he figures out the Mr. Big connection?). So cut back to the island, where there’s another Voodoo party, but this time it’s Solitaire who is being sacrificed. I guess this was the right time to die. I also guess there’s an argument to be made that her death being a public spectacle to the locals of the island sends a message about the power of Baron Samedi, or something? It’s slightly more logical than how Bond is possibly still alive.
Speaking of, he, Felix, and Quarrel show up on the outskirts of this party. Quarrel is assigned the task of planting explosives in the poppy fields, which I’m really not sure should be in the purview of the CIA or MI6. The Fillet of Soul busts make sense, but this…is almost an act of war maybe? Bond, meanwhile, is to rescue Solitaire. Felix is going to wait on the boat.
So, yeah. Bond saves her by shooting the dude with the snakes who wears the goat head, shooting a wooden dummy of Baron Samedi with oddly working eyeballs (who rose up from a trap door beneath a grave), and then sword-fighting and knocking the real Baron Samedi into a coffin full of snakes. Easy-peasy.
Then, Bond decides to go down through the trap door that Baron Samedi came out of (taking Solitaire with him), which reveals an Underground Lair of Evilness. Actually, not really, it’s just an underground monorail system for the shipment of opium.
Kananga’s got a shitton of men there, so he’s able to capture Bond and Solitaire pretty easily. I should have mentioned that Bond came armed with a shark gun, that has inflating pellets, which Kananga tests out on a couch:
He also dismisses the destruction of his poppy fields with a wave of his hand because “they’re a sturdy plant.” Um…explosives, dude.
Either way, he wants to kill Bond, but this time the best way to accomplish that is to string both him and Solitaire up to a weird lift thing, then cut Bond’s arm in several non-lethal locations, so that his blood drips into the water below. Then, Kananga lets a shark into the room (why did he have this? It’s never explained).
However, Bond’s watch doubles as a razor blade, so he cuts his rope. Then he turns on the magnet and picks up one of his inflating shots from his shark gun. And as he’s slowly doing all of this, Kananga and Mr. Whisper (and probably those guards who were lining the room earlier) are just watching and doing nothing. Logic. Solitaire spends her time clinging to the lift.
Anyway, Bond somehow traps Mr. Whisper inside of a bomb chassis or something?
Then he and Kananga fight and both fall in the water with the shark. Bond forces the inflatable pellet into Kananga’s mouth, and then pushes off his body and climbs out of the water before the shark gets to them. Kananga goes to the surface and takes a breath, causing this to happen:
Solitaire apparently didn’t watch any of this despite being right the fuck there, so she asks Bond what happened to Kananga. “He always did have an inflated opinion of himself.” Suddenly the pun about Xenia’s “good squeeze” is sounding Shakespearean in context. I’m not sure what happened to Kananga’s guards or everyone working under there, but I guess they stopped giving a shit, because Bond and Solitaire just skip on out.
So yay! Mission accomplished! The Lovers board a train so that they can fuck on their way to the 21 Club, where they’re apparently going to meet up with Felix again. However Tee Hee breaks into their cabin and folds the bed into the wall with Solitaire still on it:
He and Bond talk for a bit, and fight for like 5 full minutes, until Bond snips some mechanical wires in Tee Hee’s metal arm, causing it to malfunction and get stuck to the window. Then he manages to throw Tee Hee out the window, which I guess kills him. Bond pulls the bed back out to free Solitaire, and she just goes “well that wasn’t very funny!” because she couldn’t hear anything? Bond removes Tee Hee’s arm from the window for one final pun:
Solitaire: Now what are you doing?
James: Just being disarming, darling.
End movie. Cut to the front of the train where Baron Samedi is sitting and laughing. I’m not sure if we’re actually supposed to think he survived, but it is what it is.
This…this franchise goes beyond “problematic fave,” right? I mean, I’d hardly call it a fave. In truth, I have no idea how it is that I sat through this two-hour movie enjoying every second of it, but I did, I really did. And I’d happily put on The Man with the Golden Gun to watch JW’s triumphant return. So I’m just going to chalk this up to ironic enjoyment, and only be slightly paranoid if I find myself in any booths during my trip.
Images courtesy of United Artists
Lara Croft Returns in this First Trailer for Tomb Raider
As one of the biggest and most recognizable video games of all time, with two movies starring Angelina Jolie already in the bank, it should come as no surprise we’re getting a Tomb Raider reboot already. The first trailer dropped today, and it hopes to reboot the franchise’s movie chops much the same way the game inspiring it did the video game series.
Tomb Raider looks to reboot the story as well, taking us back to the origin of Lara Croft and her tomb raiding adventures. After finding a hidden message from her missing father about an apocalyptic threat, Lara travels to stop the threat and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. This leads to her ship wrecking at a mysterious island and battling a group already there.
So basically, Tomb Raider 2013. Watch the trailer, and you’ll see that’s hopefully a very good thing.
Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft looks good, the action looks sharp, and I absolutely love how much influence the movie takes from the best of the Tomb Raider games. Walton Goggins is amazing and should make for a quality villain. All the pieces are in place to finally give us a good movie based on a video game. Tomb Raider being the franchise to break the crap streak would certainly be fitting.
After so many promising failures, however, it’s hard to get my hopes up. After all, this movie apparently adapts Tomb Raider 2013, but I see no Sam Nishimura anywhere. Big mistake, movie. You don’t make something inspired by Tomb Raider 2013 without including the mountains of subtext between Lara and Sam. Hopefully they just kept it out of the trailer.
Here’s hoping for the best. There’s a decent amount to inspire optimism here, even without a Sam around for Lara to gal pal around with.
Tomb Raider is scheduled for release on March 16, 2018. Along with Vikander and Goggins, the film stars Daniel Wu, Dominic West, Hannah John-Kamen, Antonio Aakeel, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Nick Frost.
Video and Images Courtesy of MGM and Square Enix
Jumanji’s Second Trailer Spoils Everything
It’s a common thing for trailers to show too much these days, especially with action movies like Jumanji. I come to expect it at this point. Still, I’m disappointed to walk away from this trailer feeling like I saw the best parts of the movie condensed to two minutes.
The sequel to the Robin Williams starring meme classic, Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle trades in the board game for a video game. Four high school students warp inside and become the characters they chose to play as. Predictably, the geek becomes Dwayne Johnson, the popular girl becomes Jack Black, the athlete becomes Kevin Hart, and the nerdy girl becomes Karen Gillan in skimpy clothes.
Because of course. It’s a tale as old as time. Pretty sure one of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution covers this.
It all looks fun enough. The action looks cool, the jokes mostly work for me, and the cast is one I’ll find entertaining, at least. You know where the movie will go from a mile away. Sometimes that’s okay. Just throw a fun cast and some decent action in a movie, and I’ll have a good time.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle releases on December 20 and is directed by Jake Kasdan, whose previous work includes the fantastic Walk Hard.
Video and Images Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
American Assassin Is Bad But Not Bad Enough to Be Good
There’s a fine line between good bad or fun bad and just plain bad. A bad that’s plodding and self-serious, although a movie’s lack of self-awareness can sometimes boost it into good bad. American Assassin is just plain bad.
Among the litany of problems with the movie is the main character Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien). Rapp is among the few survivors of a terrorist attack at the beach resort. He is vacationing with his girlfriend/soon to be fiance Katrina (Charlotte Vega). After proposing to Katrina, the terrorists appear with automatic weapons. What follows is a disturbing mass shooting that wants to be both effective and cool but fails at both.
It fails because the publicity department of American Assassin has shown this scene countless times in trailers and television ads. Once we see the beach, we know what scene is coming. The other reason it fails is that we live in a culture in which mass shootings and terrorist attacks are not as rare as they should be. So when the movie tries to be hip about it, we bristle at its own shallow callousness.
Rapp survives and proceeds to devote his life to hunting down terrorists. He grows out his beard, works out, studies the Koran, and even gets a flexible keyboard, just so we know how serious he is. He’s so good he’s infiltrated a terrorist cell online and is close to being recruited. How Rapp can do all this without a job, or family, both his parents are dead, American Assassin never tells us.
He’s a blank slate but unfortunately so is O’Brien. O’Brien is much too young for a role of this caliber or at least he looks too young. I was never able to take him seriously as he’s surrounded by actual grown-ups. His disdain for the establishment or for authority, in general, came off as pouty and whiny more than any kind of rebelliousness. It’s in a movie like American Assassin where we begin to mourn the loss of the ‘Hollywood action star.’
Allen Darrah, an old friend, once said, “There has never been anything before or since, quite like Arnold Schwarzenegger.” That quote played in my mind while watching O’Brien stomp across the screen like a petulant middle schooler. This is a movie that would have benefited from the likes of Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis. Movie stars have to be larger than life. When the assistant director of the C.I.A. Irene (Sanaa Lathan) tells Agent Hurley (Michael Keaton) that “He tests off the charts. I’ve never seen anything like it.” We groan at the laziness of the script.
We groan because we’re expected to just accept this as fact. But O’Brien doesn’t have the charisma or the ability to make us believe it for a single second. Movie stars make us believe them by virtue of lines like “He’s tested off the charts!” With actors like O’Brien you demand they re-test him.
Eventually, the potentially super rogue agent is sent off to super rogue agent school where he meets Stanley Hurley played by the wonderful Michael Keaton who deserves a better movie. Then again so do we. Keaton has a wonderful physicality to his performances. Notice how he comes down the stairs to greet Rapp; the odd little bit of half a dance he does. Keaton is ever present no matter the performance, and he can lift up any material given to him.
Later on, when Hurley has been captured and he’s being tortured by the bad guy “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch), there is a beautiful Keaton moment. If you do happen to see this movie keep an eye out for this scene. Keaton’s famed wild eyes and manic grin come out in full force as he withstands a bizarre interrogation scene. It’s one of the few times where the director Michael Cuesta finds the perfect balance between showing enough but not too much for maximum effect. It’s the script that almost kills the scene.
The script by committee has saddled him with nothing to lift. These are stock characters in a stock plot. Had there been something on the page maybe O’Brien wouldn’t have come across as such a wet blanket. The script wants to be about Rapp’s journey, but he never goes anywhere. No one does. Things happen, and people die, but it’s never clear why any of it should matter. Although credit, where credit is due, the scene where Hurley tells Rapp to throw the nuclear device into the ocean was a pretty well-done scene. The explosion causes a tsunami-like something out of Cameron’s Abyss.
Cuesta isn’t an incompetent director. He hasn’t yet figured out what works for television and what works for the movies. There’s a scene early on where Rapp and Hurley are speaking. Cuesta shoots the scene in a series of what’s called ‘over shoulder’ shots. It’s a type of framing you often see on television. The camera is placed behind one character’s shoulder. This is so one character has his back to you while the other character is facing us. At some point, it became almost dizzying as the movie kept cutting between the different over the shoulder shots. It distracted from Keaton and O’Brien’s performance.
I know everybody hates lens flares, American Assassin has those as well, but the movie goes one step further. During the shootouts, if a character was shot and they were near the camera, blood would splatter on the lens. It’s an aim at realism in a movie that hasn’t tried to be realistic from the first frame. This is the type of movie where our hero drives a car into a tunnel filled mystery pipes. He mows down a hand full of bad guys and then climbs out just before the car explodes into a fireball killing all those in a nearby radius. How did he know Hurley wasn’t nearby? Or his Iranian counterpart Annika (Shiva Negar)?
There are a few things work, but overall American Assassin can’t escape from under the groaning weight of its inchoate script. Characters spend almost the entire run time complaining to other characters about Rapp. He’s a ‘loose cannon, ’ or he’s ‘brilliant but he doesn’t follow orders.’ The rest of the time they are furious that he’s a ‘loose cannon’ and that ‘he’s brilliant but doesn’t follow orders.’ American Assassin isn’t so bad as to be entertaining but it’s also not good enough to be enjoyable. It’s just bad, bad, bad, bad.