Bond aficionados have long bagged on A View to a Kill as the nadir of the franchise, and their complaints aren’t without merit. The villain is more boring than a sleeve of rice cakes. 007’s main squeeze is supremely annoying. Many of the film’s lame jokes make Hee Haw sound like Noël Coward.
That said, most fan vitriol gets aimed at Roger Moore himself. Moore was pushing 58 when this film debuted, an age that puts him somewhere amongst the Golden Girls. Let me posit a twist on that argument: It isn’t that Moore is old here. He’s exhausted. As Moore sleepwalks through the script’s bonanza of feeble puns and frat house innuendos, he seems like a man fed up with it all. Granted, Moore may not be a shiny penny, but a movie this bad could age anybody before their time.
To their credit, the filmmakers find consistency by putting the movie on the wrong track right away and keeping it there for the duration. View opens in Siberia, where Bond searches for the frozen body of a murdered 00 agent. Turns out, this spycicle has a prototype microchip that could helpa country withstand the blast of an EMP. Or something like that. Mainly this is just an excuse for some more stunt-heavy shenanigans, as Bond has to ski away, with the KGB in hot pursuit.
This is all well and good, until the director (Jon Glenn) and writers (Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson) ruin the entire thing with a cheap gag: As Bond snowboards to freedom, they can’t resist shoehorning in a few bars of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls.” Campy doesn’t even feel like the right word. Seriously, Glen and company couldn’t have destroyed the suspense of this scene faster if they’d had 007 wet his ski britches and fight the bad guys with steamy piss flowing out of his snow boots. This sets the vibe for the remainder of the film: When in doubt, go right for schlock.
After Bond escapes and gets a little nookie on the ice floes, he takes the microchip to MI6. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) deduces that Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), a ruthless oil billionaire, is passing tech secrets to the Soviets. Naturally, the chips are just part of a bigger and more nefarious plan, and Bond is dispatched to suss out the details.
What follows is a paint-by-numbers spectacle—expensive, loud, and boring. The film stages big action set pieces on iconic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge, but even those are cartoonish and poorly constructed. Even worse, the final act is an ugly, bloodthirsty mess that would be more appropriate for Rambo or Commando. If it wasn’t for Moore tossing out limp, soggy puns, you’d swear the last thirty minutes of this flick weren’t even a Bond film at all.
Ironically, the first two acts of View lean hard on the 007 tropes, only to double-bogey every single one: Walken makes the curious decision to underplay his villain, quietly mugging and mumbling through one scene after another. In his defense, Zorin is a bland man with a bland plan. Meanwhile, Tanya Roberts plays the worst kind of Bond girl, whose sole function in the story is to fall into danger and scream for help. Only Grace Jones makes any kind of impression, playing the underwritten killer May Day.
Worst of all, even the action scenes are wanting. A big chase through San Francisco is so hackneyed and cheeseball it makes Cannonball Run look like Bullitt. And that scuffle on the Golden Gate? Well, it involves a hatchet, dynamite, and a kamikaze blimp. Unfortunately, none of that is as cool as it sounds.
Maybe that’s the real problem with A View to a Kill: It should be way better than it is. Moore is a fine Bond. Give him a better script, and I guarantee nobody would notice he’s older than Matlock. Walken has played better psychos on Saturday Night Live, so I know he could put more oomph into this test tube Nazi. The stunts, including a base jump from the Eiffel Tower, should be way more memorable. In fact, the best thing about this entire movie is Duran Duran’s pounding theme song. And when your movie’s high point is over with the opening credits, you‘ve got a big problem on your hands.
131 min. PG. Paramount+
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