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'Tomorrow Never Dies': James Bond Zips into the '90s

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 19, 1997

  Movie Critic

Tomorrow Never Dies
Pierce Brosnan stars as James Bond in "Tomorrow Never Dies." (MGM-UA)

Roger Spottiswoode
Pierce Brosnan;
Jonathan Pryce;
Michelle Yeoh;
Teri Hatcher;
Joe Don Baker;
Judi Dench;
Desmond Llewellyn
Running Time:
2 hours
For sexual situations, violence and language
East meets West, yin meets yang and chop-socky meets kiss-kiss bang-bang in "Tomorrow Never Dies," a zippy 007 romp that draws as heavily from the Asian action genre as from the formula that has served the series so well for 35 years.

"Goldeneye" and Pierce Brosnan's debonair Bond resuscitated the creaky franchise in 1995, but as M (formidable Judi Dench) pointed out, James remained "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur." But "Tomorrow," jazzier, wittier and more costly than its predecessor, also comes closer to catching up with '90s style and politics.

Although the opening sequence is as foxy as ever, Bond's dalliances are limited to a fetching Danish teacher and an old flame because he spends much of the movie handcuffed to his co-star. Hong Kong kung-pow chick Michelle Yeoh, as the cool-headed Chinese agent Wai Lin, proves 007's equal at kicking post-Cold War butt.

The two take on craven communications baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a deliciously exaggerated -- or is it? -- composite of Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch and the late Robert Maxwell. Carver's not only the most plausible Bond nemesis ever but the perfect one for the current global villain shortage.

Big businessmen, big bugs and aliens have been done to death, and there's only one thing to do: Bruce Feirstein, who co-wrote "Goldeneye," goes after the man behind the cameras. And why shouldn't he? Polls routinely find journalists are second to lawyers in winning the public's contempt.

Although Feirstein wrote the script before Princess Diana's death, the tabloids' contribution to that tragedy makes Carver's gargantuan appetite for power easy to swallow.

Like William Randolph Hearst, Carver doesn't merely cover the news, he makes it. "There's no news like bad news," cackles this madman as he brings the world to the brink of World War III just to launch his new 24-hour news network. To that end, Carver's minions sink a British naval vessel in the South China Sea and put the blame on a covey of Chinese MiGs.

With tensions rising between the two nations, the British send Bond to investigate Carver's involvement and maybe to get reacquainted with Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), an old lover now married to the mad mogul. Then, "Pump her for information," urges Moneypenny (Samantha Bond).

Espionage just wouldn't be the same without the hokey double-entendre, although there's less punning than usual.

Carver may proclaim "words the weapons of the future," but "Tomorrow" is propelled by relentless action. Chase scenes are interrupted not by witty conversation or sexy conquests but by the rattle of machine gun fire.

The best of the action sends Wai Lin and Bond over the roofs of Ho Chi Minh City on motorcycle while handcuffed. But even that one eventually runs dry simply because director Roger Spottiswoode ("Turner and Hooch") lets it go on and on and on . . .

It's no fault of Brosnan, who fits the role as beautifully as he does his tuxedo, and like a true '90s hunk manages to show vulnerability without looking weak. Example: Today's Bond is really sorry now when a bimbo catches a bullet for him. And, as he keeps repeating to anyone who'll listen, he's the way he is because he never grew up. And everybody else has?

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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