Bondathon #14: A View to a Kill (1985)

Posted: March 31, 2016 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

View to  a Kill (1985)

Director: John Glen

Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee

I thought it would have been impossible for Bond to sink any lower than “Octopussy.” That movie saw 007 dress up as a clown, for crying out loud! Then my long-filed away memories of “A View to a Kill” resurfaced. It is simply inexcusable for any movie featuring the character of James Bond to be THIS awful. If you find yourself squirming in your chair while watching a movie, there had better be some pretty intense imagery on the screen in front of you. Also, if you are sitting in stunned silence at the end of a movie, the producers would like to believe that’s because you’re catching your breath after the wild ride they’ve taken you through. The experience of watching “A View to a Kill” provides none of this. Instead it’s the predictable, tedious sort of action flick that causes you to check your watch every five to ten minutes.

During the prologue, James Bond has gone to Siberia to find the body of missing MI6 Agent 003, recovering the Soviet microchip which 003 had on him. This sequence includes what would be a pretty spectacular snowboarding sequence, but it’s ruined by an unwelcome and out-of-place cover of the Beach Boys’ song “California Girls.” Oh, I get it… because he’s ‘surfing’ on the snow. Ha ha. Stop it! After further analysis of the chip, it is determined to be a duplicate of one capable of holding up against even an EMP, manufactured by Zorin Industries. At a racetrack in England, Bond keeps a watchful eye on the company’s owner, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Zorin’s horse wins the race, but MI6 agent Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) suspects the horse has been injected with steroids. In Paris, Bond learns some stuff about an impending horse sale from a French detective just before the PI is murdered by May Day (Grace Jones), Zorin’s personal bodyguard. Bond and Tibbett then travel to the Zorin estate. There Bond uncovers a secret laboratory where he learns that Zorin’s horses are indeed receiving steroid injections, but through implants that can be triggered mid-race. Dastardly. Boring, but dastardly.

As Zorin has gotten wind of Bond’s true identity, he has Tibbett killed and believes he has set Bond up to drown in his car. He hasn’t. Instead, a very much alive Bond heads to San Francisco, California where Zorin intends to erase Silicon Valley, killing many innocents and causing his microchips to skyrocket in value. Bond learns from his contact in the CIA… surprisingly not Felix Leiter this time… that Zorin may be the product of genetic engineering as the result of steroid experimentation on pregnant women during World War II by a Nazi doctor, who just so happens to be Zorin’s current personal physician. Ah, so the horse steroid angle really DID have a point to it! …It’s still lame.

Bond barges into the house of a woman he’d seen earlier at Zorin’s estate, curious as to why Zorin would cut her a check for $5 million. Bond is able to convince Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) that he is not one of Zorin’s thugs come to pressure her into cashing the check when the real goon squad arrives. It’s Stacey’s family oil business that Zorin wants. Stacey herself is a geologist, if you can believe it. I know I sure don’t. At City Hall, Bond and Stacey run into both Zorin and May Day. Stacey’s boss is murdered with Bond’s gun, and Zorin and May Day set fire to the building with Bond and Stacey trapped in the elevator shaft. On top of that, Zorin made Stacey’s boss call the cops just before he shot him, so even after Bond and Stacey free themselves they still have to explain the situation to law enforcement. When this film’s version of inept cops refuse to by their side of the story, Bond and Stacey steal a fire truck and hightail it out of there. We’ve seen this chase in almost every Roger Moore Bond film, and it’s always mind-numbingly stupid. Moving on…

So, Bond and Stacey make their way into Zorin’s mine, where he plans to explode large quantities of dynamite that will disturb the San Andreas and Hayward faults to the point of flooding Silicon Valley. To finish the job, Zorin also has another bomb in place which will effectively destroy a so-called ‘geological lock’ that keeps both faults from moving all at once. Zorin and one of his associates then pick up machine guns and massacre the mine workers. In this moment, as I’m witnessing body after body being perforated by bullets, I’m starting to wonder if I’m still watching a James Bond movie. Becoming unrecognizable was an asset to “Moonraker,” but here it’s just another obstacle. While Bond fights with May Day, Stacey is given time to escape. Then something very odd happens. Zorin abandons May Day to die along with Bond and the mine workers. Seeing this, a scorned May Day abruptly switches sides and helps Bond get the bomb out of harms way, ultimately resulting in an unforeseen hero’s death for the same person who murdered no less than three of Bond’s informants.

Stacey, meanwhile, has been standing out in the middle of a field with a big “KIDNAP ME!” sign on her chest, and guess what? Zorin nabs her and takes her up in his airship. Bond sees this and grabs hold of the mooring rope just in time. Eventually, the action spills out onto the framework of the Golden Gate Bridge, where Zorin tries to axe murder Bond. But Zorin loses his balance and falls to his death. The Nazi doctor, still on board the airship, attempts to kill Bond and Stacey with a stick of dynamite, but when Bond cuts the airship free from the bridge, the doctor loses his grip on the dynamite and the airship explodes.

Whew! What an ordeal! As I said, “A View to a Kill” shouldn’t have been this bad. Not when you have Christopher Walken as your villain. Grace Jones, of whom I’m normally no fan, is admittedly memorable as May Day. I do love the inclusion of Patrick Macnee, thus completing a trifecta of Avengers-to-Bond actors begun by Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg. There’s a bit of miscasting in the case of Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton… my personal least favorite Bond girl… although I don’t really fault Ms. Roberts, who I know to be a good actress when given the right material. For example, she was hilarious as Donna’s mom on “That 70’s Show.” Duran Duran had a hit song with the title tune, though I was never a fan. When Duran Duran was at the peak of their popularity, I was more into acts like Prince and Dire Straits.

After this one, Roger Moore did finally retire from the role of James Bond. To this day, he still calls “A View to a Kill” his least favorite, and rightly so. Also departing the series would be Lois Maxwell, who had portrayed MI6 secretary Miss Moneypenny every since “Dr. No” in 1962. No matter what, with the next Bond there would come a genuine sense of change. There is also a certain relief in knowing that, even with any remaining slips into mediocrity that the series would experience, 007 would never drop to this low a level of quality again… thus making the dismal “A View to a Kill” that much more of a curiosity.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Again, I didn’t watch this Moore film under the assumption that Moore = bad Bond. Just the extremely hard to follow plot alone would be enough to make one’s head spin. I can’t imagine Tanya Roberts as a Bond girl. I love Christopher Walken, though, so just maybe…someday… I might bite the bullet and watch some of it. Excellent review, as always!

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