Sunday, December 15, 2013

Very Average Bond: The Man With The Golden Gun Is Direct And Pretty Good.

The Good: Decent performances, Straightforward plot
The Bad: Very light on character development, Lack of nuanced performances, Inclusion of J.W. Pepper
The Basics: The Man With The Golden Gun is a much more practical Bond film that has Bond hunting an assassin who appears to be after him!

The Man With The Golden Gun has a special place in my heart. As a young person, there were a number of things that happened in short order. I got sober, finished my James Bond phase and began a longterm love affair with Star Trek. My father used to get out the various James Bond films out from the library and I was grounded when he got out The Man With The Golden Gun. As a result, The Man With The Golden Gun became the final Bond movie I cared about and did not get a chance to watch back in the day.

Now, as part of my determined quest to watch all of the James Bond films, I have finally caught up with The Man With The Golden Gun. After Bond films with absurd and complicated action-adventure plots that often border on science fiction, there is something remarkably refreshing about The Man With The Golden Gun. The Man With The Golden Gun has James Bond largely as an investigator and seeing the spy actually do detective work, tracking clues, makes the character seem surprisingly fresh for the usually formulaic film series.

When a hitman pays a visit to Scaramanga’s private residence, it appears his valet, Nick Nack, has betrayed him. However, the man with the third nipple works his way through the elaborate maze Nick Nack created to recover his golden pistol and kill the hitman. Back at MI-6 headquarters, M is alarmed when a golden bullet with 007’s number is sent to the spy organization and it is obvious that Scaramanga is planning to kill James Bond next. Forced to take sabbatical, James Bond decides that the best way to stop Scaramanga from making good on his threat to kill him is by tracking him down and killing him first.

Bond’s search takes him to a bellydancer who has the bullet that killed another Agent (002) and analysis of the bullet leads Bond to Lazar. Lazar is the man who crafted the infamous golden gun utilized by Scaramanga and when Bond menaces Lazar, he confesses that he has a new shipment of bullets for Scaramanga. Tracking the recipient of the bullets to a hotel in Hong Kong, James Bond ends up at the Bottoms Up club where Scaramanga shoots another man on the street next to him. Evading the police in Hong Kong, Bond realizes that Scaramanga does not have a contract out on him. With the murdered man being identified as Gibson, an alternative energy expert, Bond realizes that Hai Fat could afford to hire Scaramanga. Impersonating Scaramanga, Bond pays Hai Fat a visit, but he quickly falls victim to Scaramanga’s quest for further fortune.

The Man With The Golden Gunis a remarkably straightforward film. There is a hit called in on James Bond and he methodically follows the trail of clues that bring him from the threat to the trained assassin. There are no convoluted plans, a remarkable lack of gadgets and a diminished sense of whimsy in The Man With The Golden Gun. Instead, Bond is the target and he spends the film trying to get the target off his back. Despite how much I usually love complicated characters with intriguing motivations, there is something refreshing about The Man With The Golden Gun. The Man With The Golden Gun features a villain who is undervalued and simply wants money (lots and lots of money).

While there is a brief subplot that makes it appear that Hai Fat will be the villain and there is a an irksome buddy comedy thread whereby James Bond is paired up with the blonde MI-6 Agent Goodnight (and later the Louisiana sheriff J.W. Pepper), The Man With The Golden Gun is largely uncomplicated and straightforward. Rather than get bogged down with larger themes of greed and corruption, The Man With The Golden Gun is fleshed out by a somewhat pointless martial arts demonstration whose only point seems to be to foreshadow the comic scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (reviewed here!) where Indiana Jones shoots a master swordsman.

While The Man With The Golden Gun has some pleasant surprises (like the buttkicking girls who rescue Bond from the karate experts), the film is mostly straightforward and predictable. For Roger Moore’s second outing as Bond, Moore is given little to do. This version of Bond requires no real emotional range and while Moore gets the few one-liners out of the way credibly, he manages the physical stunts admirably. Similarly, Christopher Lee plays Scaramanga without any subtlety or depth. Instead, he is monolithic and cold as the title character. There is nothing like the nuance and innuendo he used when playing Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (reviewed here!). Scaramanga has a professional appreciation of Bond, but Christopher Lee plays him as anything but passionate about anything. Instead, he is cold and efficient and constantly professional.

The result is a film that is generally average, but not unpleasant. It was worth the wait to watch it once, but it was nothing lifechanging I’ve been missing for the past twenty-five years.

For other James Bond films, please check out my reviews of:
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum Of Solace


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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