Live And Let Die (1973)

Untitled-1There is a crisis. Usually someone is murdered. James Bond is brought in to solve the case. He will survive assassination attempts, sleep with women who want to kill him — but not really kill him because his charm is too potent — engage in fist fights, gun fights, sometimes swordplay. There will be a car chase, or a chase of some kind where he will outsmart a bunch of the villain’s daft henchmen. He will uncover a plan of global domination, and infiltrate secret lairs where the villain is always waiting for him with open arms and a glass of champagne. After being caught and escaping, he will defeat the villain in some bombastic way, and then dispose of the remaining henchmen.

Tell me, how is Live And Let Die really different from this?

Well, I can tell you two ways in which it is different, but neither makes the movie any better. 1) There is no Sean Connery. His reign is over. Is he the best James Bond? I still don’t think so, but at least he knew how to play the role; how to take it seriously when needed, and how to scoff at it when he got a bit silly. Roger Moore makes a good Bond. Certainly better than Lazenby, but he’s still too fresh out of the box to know what he’s gotten himself into. And 2) There is no plan to dominate the world. No Blofeld, no lairs, no satellites that can shoot out heat beams. This time, the big bad guy is a drug trafficker who wants to take over the drug world with a scheme that I don’t quite understand.

It isn’t enough. The formula is the same. The chronology of the story is the same. We’ve seen it before. We know how it works and we know what will happen to Bond, and how he will get there. It doesn’t matter who plays him, or who the villain is. Live And Let Die’s plot is just about as convoluted and confusing as any of the others. This, too, becomes a routine instead of originality. The only thing that’s different about it is the over abundance of African American characters, all of whom are corrupt in one way or another. They are the mob bosses, the drug guys, the henchman, the fake funeral procession, the assassins.  Even the attractive lady who seduces Bond ends up being just another thorned rose.

I am writing this review a number of hours after watching the movie, and what startles me the most is how little I remember of it. I can recall the climax — the sharks and the pill full of air that sends Mr. Kananga floating to his ceiling and then into a thousand pieces — and I can recall other, more generic moments. But the details escape me. It exists in my mind in fragments; scenes out of order. I can remember the funeral procession ambling down a New Orleans street while an agent leans against a pillar, watching them. I can even remember questioning the structural integrity of their coffin, but ask me what comes after or before that and I will be hard-pressed to give you an answer. Why? I’m not so sure. I have a strong feeling it has something to do with what I mentioned earlier — about how nothing seems new anymore in the Bond franchise. When nothing is new, nothing is worth remembering.

I also gave Diamonds Are Forever a two-star rating. Is this one better? Slightly. It isn’t inadvertently comical, and it knows how to use its villain. It also doesn’t have the ridiculous fight scenes that its predecessor did. What it lacks for me is a punch. It gives us all the usual elements of a Bond movie, but does nothing innovative with any of them. The movies now are like computers. All the hardware in a computer wears out over time. It slows down, it lags, the graphics lose their crispness. You can change the way the computer looks, but it won’t make it any better. You have to change what’s inside. Similarly, you can change the actor who plays Bond, you can change the Bond girls, the villain, the grand evil scheme. But they are merely superficial changes. To make improvements, you have to change what’s on the inside.

Best Moment | I can barely remember the movie.

Worst Moment | Kananga’s death. Seriously, what?

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