Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Live and Let Die" (1973)

Starring Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto and Jane Seymour
Written by Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Rated PG - Violence, sex, language
Running Time: 121 Minutes

When three British agents are murdered in the United States and the Caribbean, James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to New York to investigate.  Before he can meet with his CIA contact and old friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison), an assassin attempts to take him out, and the trail leads Bond to a chain of restaurants called the Fillet of Soul.

These restaurants are a front for a major drug operation run by a gangster and kingpin known as Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto).  Bond soon meets Solitaire (Jane Seymour), the virginal fortune teller who reads Tarot for Mr. Big.  She warns him of coming danger and helps him keep his massive drug running schemes out of trouble with the law.  Mr. Big tries again to kill Bond, who escapes, and trails Big to the Caribbean island of San Monique, the headquarters of his drug ring.

With the help of Quarrel Jr. (Roy Stewart) and eventually Solitaire, Bond must destroy Mr. Big's heroin operation before he can seize control of the drug trade in the United States.

"Live and Let Die", despite its awesome title and theme song, is a pretty lame movie.  Focusing the story on the drug trade isn't really the problem, but the fact that the script is ultimately just too weird and stupid. As a debut film for Roger Moore, he's not exactly starting out on the right foot.  The film features some really silly dialogue, with characters tracking down "pimpmobiles" and Bond is once referred to as a "honky."

This, plus all the occult voodoo stuff and a run-in with a chubby racist southern sheriff later in the film gives "Live and Let Die" a rather awkward, uncomfortable tone to be watching on 2012.  Couple all this with the fact that much of the action sequences are rather limp, and "Live and Let Die" turns into a rather poor James Bond adventure.

Roger Moore does alright in the role in his first time out.  But saddled with such a poor script, it's rather difficult to get a read on him.  He gets some of the sarcasm just perfectly, and he's certainly suave.  At this point, he hadn't taken the character too far, so it turns out to be merely alright.  He's not too comedic nor too old at this point, which is good.  That probably would have made "Live and Let Die" an even worse picture than merely uncomfortable.

A centerpiece boat chase through Louisiana should have been the cool action set piece of the picture, instead turns out to be pretty boring and even worse, ruined by the overly comedic appearance of Clifton James as bumbling sheriff JW Pepper.  He seriously drains any sense of urgency out of this sequence.

See Also
James Bond