Friday, November 16, 2012

Live and Let Die

I was toying with "not as bad as I expected" for a good part of the first half of the movie. First of all, Roger Moore takes to the role immediately. He gets a lot of shit for being in some of the worst films of the series, but there's a reason he stuck around for 7 films, and it's because he is damn good at making the role seem effortless. After lazy-assed Connery, it is a pleasure to watch someone who wants to be there again.

There's some interesting low-key spying stuff going on for a good part of the running time, even though the milieu it's playing in is really, really dubious. We'll get back to that. And there's a fun boat chase in the early part of the back half that starts out pretty promising before collapsing into nonsense.

But the movie does, ultimately, collapse in on itself. Two things do this movie in. One is the silliness, represented perfectly by the thing that kills the boat chase - Sheriff JW Pepper, the cracker-ass-cracker to end all cracker-ass-crackers. How many of those awful Smokey and the Bandit movies were there? At least three, right? Well, even the people who made the awful sequels would have rejected the character and performance as too over the top. I can't put into words how terrible this character is, and how out of place it is.

The second, of course, is the racism. From a poorly thought out blaxploitation theme in the first half to out and out Ooga Booga island voodoo in the second half, this is a movie that really has a low opinion of black people. Just about every black character is an idiot or a villain. There are a couple of tokens that escape with their dignity intact, but it doesn't save the thing.

So, bullet points.

Yaphet Kotto is really quite excellent as the Big Bad, Kananga. Getting him as the villain is the one saving grace of the decision to go all-in on black villainy.

There's a jive-talking taxi driver who shows up in two separate locations and I can't for the life of me figure out why.

The Bond girl proper is played by Jane Seymour and she's pretty cute, but her special skill is fucking tarot card reading and it is really dire. Kananga's empire is implied to be based on the fact that he has access to accurate predictive power. I mean, this is one of those subtle things the movie does - all the previous (white) bad guys had empires built on cool tech and science but the black bad guy built his on magic.

The secondary girl is black, her name is Rosie, and she is a capable person for about 10 seconds before she turns into a shrieking, bumbling wreck of a human being. She gets killed off quickly, due to her own stupidity, obviously.

Bond escapes from a crocodile trap by jumping across three of them, Frogger style. The movie thinks this is a badass stunt. It is wrong.

Kananga's final boss lair, an underground hideout, is pretty cool, possibly the coolest thing since the volcano base. Bond dispatches him by stuffing an exploding gas canister in his mouth, which is admittedly an interesting way to end the movie, but the special effect of Yaphet Kotto's body all blown up is really ludicrous. At least we get to see him die, which is a step up from Diamonds Are Forever's moronic ending.

Sexist/Racist - You know.

Bond beds three women, the Bond girl, the secondary girl, and some other random woman at the beginning. I don't know if him sleeping with a black chick was transgressive in 1973, but even if it was it is buried deep underneath the shitpile of racism elsewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment