At the finale of "A View to a Kill," James Bond (Roger Moore) dangles from a blimp, an almost painfully appropriate metaphor for the adventure series that is now bloated, slow moving and at the end of its rope. It's not double-oh-seven anymore, but double-oh-seventy, the best argument yet for the mandatory retirement age.
Bond's adversary here is Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), a renegade KGB agent turned billionaire industrialist, who, in league with his lover/bodyguard May Day (Grace Jones), is plotting to corner the microchip market by destroying Silicon Valley. Why is Zorin so evil, you ask? It turns out that he was "created" in the Nazi concentration camps by a Mengele figure experimenting with steroids on pregnant women. Most of the children died; those who didn't survived with extraordinary intelligence and more than a touch of psychopathy.
Bond first grows suspicious when one of Zorin's horses, despite its inferior bloodlines, wins a major race at Ascot. Masquerading as James St. John Smythe, he attends a horse auction at Zorin's Versailles-like estate, where he meets Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), an heiress fallen victim to Zorin's aggressive mergers and acquisitions practices. "A View to a Kill" is nothing if not thorough -- it rolls nazism, communism and merger mania into one.
In between, the movie follows the usual Bond formula, except the gadgets are a cut less ingenious, the women a notch below stunning, the puns and double-entendres something besides clever. "I'm happiest in the saddle," says Zorin. "A fellow sportsman," says Bond. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
There is some magnificent stunt work, which only underscores how inadequate Moore has become. Moore isn't just long in the tooth -- he's got tusks, and what looks like an eye job has given him the pie-eyed blankness of a zombie. He's not believable anymore in the action sequences, even less so in the romantic scenes -- it's like watching women fall all over Gabby Hayes. And unlike "Never Say Never Again," which made a theme out of Sean Connery's over-the-hillerie, "A View to a Kill" never acknowledges Moore's age. We're just supposed to take him at face value, and once again, the pound has declined.
Jones looks terrific -- with her powerful, spindly limbs and hard polished skull, she's a large, splendid driver ant -- but the minute she opens her mouth, all the air goes out of her performance. She's an icon, not an actress. And Roberts is an absolute howl as Stacey. When Bond fills her in on Zorin's plans, she brays, "Dat's incredibwee dangerous!" and flounces off in a pink nightie. She is, by the way, an expert geologist.
Walken wears a blond wig, a formidable contraption that lifts from his baldness in a simian sweep -- he looks like Dr. Zaius and talks like Joey Bishop. He's trying to send up the material, but at this late date, Bond has moved beyond camp into irrelevance.
"A View to a Kill," opening today, is rated PG and contains violence and some sexual themes.