Thursday, September 28, 2006

Please Say Never Again

In my quest to watch all the James Bond films in reverse chronological order, I come to the unofficial, bastard, 1983 film Never Say Never Again. Sean Connery starred in this movie and competed with the official 1983 James Bond flick, Roger Moore's Octopussy.

I should preface this review by stating that I am ageist when it comes to James Bond actors. Regular readers of this blog will recall that I recently gave a resounding thumbs up to 57 year old Moore in A View to A Kill. So how can I disparage 53 year old Connery in this movie? I will explain. But first, let me tell you what I liked about the movie.

The supporting cast is diverse and talented. Kudos to Barbara Carrera as the maniacally sexy Fatima Blush. From pimp slapping her patient to being shot with a pen gun, Blush exudes exoticism, cunning, and confidence. She played a very strong, evil Bond girl/woman.

Klaus Maria Brandauer (as Largo) also deserves praise. He shuns the stereotypes of past villains. He is actually humble, almost obsequious, when he enters the control room of his mega-yacht, the Flying Saucer, and says "Good morning" to his crew. In between moments of wicked calculation and megalomaniacal anger, he shows the emotions of a teenager in puppy love and the vulnerabilities of every man's confidence in himself. A one-dimensional character he is not.

Minor characters in the movie brought both realism and welcome comic relief. The character of M was played by Edward Fox. Fox' M is younger than the geriatric Robert Brown, who plays M in the official 007 films. Fox' character shows the stress, doubt, cynicism, and cover-your-ass attitude prevalent in all public servants in Western democracies. It is a much more realistic portrayal than the all knowing and jaded M portrayed by Brown.

Rowan Atkinson plays Nigel Small-Fawcett, a British diplomat stationed in Nassau. His bungling buffoonery never gets old. He steals every scene he is in.

Two cars are worth noting. First, when Bond goes to the health resort, he arrives in an old Bentley convertible, his personal car. It is an homage to the original Ian Fleming works. The other is the red Renault 5 Turbo driven by Fatima. Much maligned as Le Car in the States (google Phil Hartman's SNL ad for the Adobe, a Le Car made of clay), the Renault kicks ass in the movie.

This movie had the potential of being in the top 5 of Bond flicks, but Sean Connery ruined it. Not by his acting, but his age.

Just look at this poor man. That is either a combover or a toupee. Whatever it is, it ruined the movie for me. Not for a second did I believe he belonged in the movie. When he rode through the narrow streets of southern France in his motorcycle, I thought he was going to throw his back out. When he lifted the five pound dumbbells at the spa, I thought he was going to get a hernia. That random receptionists and fitness instructors wanted to jump the geezer's bones the instant they set their eyes on him is outrageously funny.

Sean Connery was a legendary James Bond and went on to play great roles as older patriarchs in the 1990s. But he was not cut out to play Bond in 1983, at the age of 53.


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