There is hardly a red-blooded American boy whose pulse isn`t quicker by the familiar strains of the James Bond theme and the first sight of the hero cocking a gun at any enemy coming his way. Unfortunately, A View to a Kill,” the 16th outing for the Ian Fleming characters, doesn`t keep the adrenaline pumping, exposing the inherent weaknesses of the genre.
Trading on the Bond name, outlook is good for initial business, but momentum is likely to falter, just as the production does. The potential for cinematic thrills and chills, what with glamourous locations, beautiful women and exotic locations, is still there, but in “A View to a Kill” it`s the execution that`s lacking. A traditionally big Bond opening, this time a daring chase through the Alps, gets the film off to a promising start but proves one of the film`s few highlights as it slowly slips into tedium. Basic problem is on the script level with the intricate plot never offering the mindless menace necessary to propel the plot.
First third of the pic is devoted to introduction of characters in a horse-fixing subplot that has no real bearing on the main action. Bond`s adversary this time is the international industrialist Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his love-hate interest, May Day (Grace Jones). Bond tangles with them at their regal horse sale and uncovers a profitable scheme in which microchips are surgically implanted in the horse to assure an easy victory. Horse business is moderately entertaining, particularly when Patrick Macnee is on screen as Bond`s chauffeur accomplice.
Action, however, jumps abruptly to San Francisco to reveal Zorin`s true motives. He`s hatching some master plan to pump water from the sea into the San Andreas fault causing a major earthquake, destroying the Silicon Valley and leaving him with the world`s microchip monopoly. Film sags badly in the San Francisco section when it should be soaring, partially due to Bond`s joining forces with American geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts). Try as you might to believe it, Roberts has little credibility as a woman of science.
Her delivery of lines like “I`d sell everything and live in a tent before I`d give,” makes the obvious laughable. While Bond pics have always traded heavily on the camp value of its characters, “A View to a Kill” almost attacks the humor, practically winking at the audience with every move. Director John Glen, who previously directed “For Your Eyes Only,” has not found the right balance between action and humor to make the production dangerous fun. Walken, too, the product of a mad Nazi scientist`s genetic experiments, is a bit wimpy by Bond villain standards. With hair colored an unnaturally yellow he seems more effete than deadly.
As his assistant, Grace Jones is a successful updating of the Jaws-type villain. Jones just oozes `80s style and gets to parade in a number of sensation outfits (designed by Emma Porteous) giving a hard but alluring edge to her character. As for Roger Moore, making his seventh appearance as Bond, he is right about half the time, he still has the suave and cool for the part, but on occasion he looks a bit old for the part and his coy womanizing seems dated when he does. Other instances when the film strives to stake its claim to the rock video audience backfire and miscalculate the appeal of the material.
Opening credit sequence in MTV style is downright bizarre and title song by Duran Duran will certainly not go down as one of the classic Bond tunes. [Hmmm…Editors.] With all of its limitations, production still remains a sumptuous feast to look at. Shot in Panavision by Alan Hume, exotic locations such as the Eiffel Tower, San Francisco Bay and Zorin`s French chateau are rendered beautifully. Climax hanging over the Golden Gate Bridge is chillingly real thanks to the miniature artists and effects people (supervised by John Richardson). Production design by Peter Lamont is first rate.