Bad guys 0-for-19 vs. slippery 007

Bond: Villains need to learn that their man knows how to wriggle out of exotic executions.

November 27, 1999|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

Memo to bad guys in James Bond movies: For the umpteenth time, if you get the drop on 007, just pull the trigger, OK?

Forget about strapping him to a table and dismembering him with a powerful laser.

Forget about handcuffing him to a nuclear bomb.

Forget about tossing him into a shark tank.

Forget about locking him in an airtight room and releasing deadly cyanide gas.

Keep it simple, stupid. You're all packing heat -- use it!

Don't you guys get it? Every time you try one of your exotic methods of eliminating Bond, the man wriggles out of it and comes back to haunt you.

You people are what, 0-for-18 when it comes to getting rid of this guy?

Actually, we can now make that 0-for-19, because in the new Bond film, "The World is Not Enough," Bond again foils a thoroughly exotic (and dopey) execution planned in his honor. We'll discuss this, in all its glorious stupidity, later.

For now, let's see how this new Bond movie stacks up to those of the past by studying the seven critical factors that comprise every Bond movie:

1. Cool Gadgets Factor

Let's see: rocket-launching BMW roadster?


Explosives-shooting eyeglasses?


Ski jacket that inflates instantly into a bullet-proof protective cocoon?


Yes, yes, Bond again rides off to save the Free World with more gizmos than you'd find in a Sharper Image store.

But the grand-prize winner in the gadget category in "World" is a sleek, black speedboat with afterburners that looks like something Big Daddy Don Garlits used in drag races.

Naturally, the boat can change directions like a hummingbird, corner like a Formula I racer, dive like a Trident submarine and -- oh, but you saw this one coming -- convert to use on land.

(By the way, Q, played by veteran Desmond Llewelyn, actually retires from the spook business in this movie. Which begs the question: Can a guy who spent nearly 40 years designing flame-throwing galoshes, personal jetpacks and underwater motorcycles that do 0-to-60 in 4.5 seconds really find contentment playing golf and helping his wife put up window screens?)

2. The Bond Girl Factor

A major letdown, at least from an acting standpoint. (Then again, watching a Bond movie for the acting is like watching pro wrestling for fashion tips.)

The leading babe in "World" is Sophie Marceau, who plays Elektra King, of whom the kindest thing that can be said is: She's no Honey Rider.

Honey Rider, of course, was the Bond girl played by Ursula Andress, who came strolling out of the surf in "Dr. No" wearing that famous white bikini that took your breath away.

In "World," Marceau spends the movie flouncing around in low-cut gowns and silk robes while sporting a curious French accent (she's supposed to be an Englishman's daughter) and a hairstyle that can best be described as "Cher: The Early Years."

Denise Richards plays Christmas Jones, a busty young thing who's supposed to be a tight-T-shirt-and-short-shorts-wearing nuclear physicist, which you'll find believable only if you could also envision, say, Mike Tyson as a concert cellist.

3. Incredible Chase Scenes Factor

This one opens with a keeper: Bond on the Thames in pursuit of some floozy who tried to whack him with a high-powered rifle after a huge explosion that killed an oil tycoon, who just happened to be one of the dearest friends of the head of the British Secret Service.

(Yes, in true Bond fashion, you often need the Cliffs Notes to follow the plot.)

Anyway, during this chase, which ends with Bond flying through the air and latching onto a rope connected to a hot-air balloon, 007's boat and the boat of the floozy destroy, unofficially:

17 wharfside restaurants;

two dozen cars;

a dozen working piers;

three or four tankers;

a sprawling marketplace;

a London police boat.

By any conservative estimate, the chase causes in the neighborhood of $2 billion worth of damage, not including millions in personal liability claims from all the innocent bystanders running in terror for their lives as the boats shoot by.

In real life, they'd be stacking bodies like cordwood after a chase like this. But to Bond and his superiors, of course, it's just another day at the office.

4. Smug Arch-Villain Factor

Another major let-down.

The arch-villain here is a notorious terrorist named Renard (Robert Carlyle).

Renard has a bullet lodged in his head that has -- stay with us here -- rendered him incapable of using many of his senses (taste, smell, touch), but which will make him grow physically stronger and more psychotic until it eventually kills him.

Whew. Try getting your HMO to pay for that.

In any event, Renard is intent on blowing up the world with a nuclear bomb -- a plot device that feels incredibly old, doesn't it?

But he never projects the sheer menace and psychotic unpredictability of such classic Bond villains as Goldfinger ("Goldfinger") or Ernst Stavro Blofeld ("You Only Live Twice").

And he's strictly a lightweight compared to the greatest Bond villain of all time, that stiletto-toed madwoman herself, Rosa Klebb ("From Russia With Love").

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