A View to a Kill (1985)

Roger Moore had been considering quitting the James Bond franchise since Moonraker completed.  For all intents and purposes, he wanted to make For Your Eyes Only his last go, and was largely brought back in Octopussy due to Sean Connery starring as Bond the same year in Never Say Never Again.  There was some question about whether he would return for A View to a Kill, as producer Albert Broccoli already had his eye on Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan as possible replacements.

Alas, Moore decided to make one last Bond film, although he was quite aware that he was too old to play the part.  Unfortunately Hollywood, as well as a number of film industries around the world, still have the habit of paring a male lead with a female romantic partner young enough to be their grandchild.  In this case, he was older than his costar's mother, which drove the point home to him.  Broccoli himself was finally getting the idea as he had no intention of doing another Bond film with Moore after this one.

The other problem with the franchise is that, after coming back strong with For Your Eyes Only, the series fell right back into self parody with Octopussy.  What little good was in the movie was overshadowed by making the whole thing into a campy cartoon that revolved around a barely-there plot.  It was the lowest point in the Bond franchise for any of the first three stars, and it is surprising that it didn't just kill it off.  Still, it made money, which is usually the one and only factor when it comes to whether or not your next movie is going to see the light of day.

After recovering a microchip and barely escaping Soviet forces off the coast of Siberia, James Bond (Roger Moore) finds out what all the fuss was about: the chip, supposedly manufactured by a Russian company, is the exact match for chips made by Zorin Industries.  While the company's head Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) is said to be a staunch anti-communist, concerns arise that his company may be a front for funneling technology secrets to the KGB.

One thing that is evident is that Zorin is a master horse breeder, and everyone is after whatever secret he has that results in his horses winning more often than not.  This leads Bond to visit Zorin's estate in Paris where he is holding an auction, with horse expert Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) in tow and disguised as his valet.  As usual Bond is not the best undercover agent, and Zorin enlists his partner May Day (Grace Jones) to dispatch him.  He lives, and traces a large check Zorin wrote to a mysterious woman to San Francisco and Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), an oil heiress that Zorin has tried to buy out.  The plan, it seems, is to use various methods (including explosives) to trigger a massive earthquake that will destroy Silicon Valley and make Zorin Industries the only microchip producer in the world.

Octopussy let the silliness get the best of it, and early on I was afraid the same would happen with A View to a Kill.  Some of those fears are realized early on in a snowboarding sequence where the Beach Boys' "California Girls" starts to play rather than the usual dramatic John Barry orchestration.  Once again director John Glen decides to ruin a great action sequence by being corny.  However, it seems that he gets it out of his system early, as the one thing that can be said for this Bond entry is it doesn't skimp on the stunts, even if Moore stunt double Bob Simmons is way too obvious in may scenes.  He should have received a costar credit.  For the record, we have a jump off the Eiffel Tower, a fight in airborne blimp and also a battle on top of the Golden Gate Bridge, all played straight.  There is a bit of humor in the fire truck chase through San Francisco but, for once, it works, rather than being filled with Looney Tunes style sound effects.

The decision to actually give Max Zorin screen time is a good one as Christopher Walken makes a great Bond villain, even if it's not one of his most memorable roles.  His tendency to start giggling at the most inappropriate times is a wonderful tick.  It is great that he is given time to do more than make a cameo, as it could have been another time when the henchman outshone the villain, as Grace Jones is hard not to notice whenever she is on screen.  Personally, I think she is underused, even if she does play a major part in the end.  Zorin has a bunch of other henchpeople, including a Nazi doctor and a bunch of other people who stand around and look evil, but they really do not contribute a whole lot.

On the other hand, Tanya Roberts is a mediocre costar.  She may be fine in b-movies like The Beastmaster, but she has absolutely no skill at delivering a line without it sounding like she's doing a testimony on how her lawyer got her off on a drunk driving charge.  It is also as if Bond is trying to overcompensate, as he manages to not only get with Stacey and May Day, but also with a fellow agent and KGB spy Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton). 

While much better than Octopussy, and a more fitting way for Roger Moore to go out as the secret agent, this is still way too light on plot and way too long on running time.  I also agree with most of Moore's criticisms, largely that even he could see that he was too old to be in the movie and the lack of chemistry he had with either Roberts or Jones was way too evident.  He also criticized it for being too violent, which is really hard to say; there is a large body count, but the blood is on the PG level of the movie, and it's nowhere on the level of either of the Timothy Dalton films.  While Zorin does gun down a bunch of people it is in the usual bloodless Hollywood style from the past.

While it is nowhere near as bad as I remembered it would be, I must also say that I remembered next to nothing about it other than the theme song and that Grace Jones was in the movie.  I had even forgotten about Walken being the villain.  This is a problem with almost every Bond film directed by John Glen, even going into the Timothy Dalton ones.  It does have a balanced sense of fun missing in the previous film, but I also prefer the down-to-earth, if sometimes a bit too perfect, version of the secret agent myself.

It must also be said that this was not only the last Bond movie for Roger Moore, but also for Lois Maxwell, who had played M's secretary Money Penny since Dr. No.  While rarely getting in on the action, she was still a staple character in the series.  It was also the last one for Bob Simmons, Moore's stunt double, as bringing in a new Bond meant someone else to do the hard work.  Also, this has one of the best theme songs with Duran Duran's title track - also notable as the last song recorded with the lineup that originally put out their self-titled album in 1981, before two thirds of the Taylors left.  Happily it is neither an embarrassment nor the last we see of Bond himself.

A View to a Kill (1985)
Time: 131 minutes
Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee
Director: John Glen


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