FACE IT, Connery fans. The Scottish laddie had his last hurrah in "Never Say Never Again." And imitator Roger Moore's Bond appears to have had it, hurrah. Now it's all up to Timothy Dalton, poor bloke.
It doesn't help him that Albert Broccoli's "The Living Daylights" is the 15th Bond film. Nor that 007 is a heroic figure to untold millions. But Dalton, with his athletic sort of Brit-yuppie work ethic and romantic streak, comes out all right.
He's spindly but energetic and enthusiastic. The eyes are scintillating, green and squinty. The accent's as refined as Moore's, but free of aloofness. He doesn't have the hairy-chested exuberance of Connery, but there's a warmth trying to get out. (Are we talking about an actor or a racehorse?)
He needs all the athleticism, energy and enthusiasm he can muster, because Broccoli and Co. (including veteran Bond writer Richard Baibaum and director John "For Your Eyes Only" Glen), perennially determined to top all previous Bonds, put him through the hyperactive motions. "Daylights" is crammed with Bondiana -- gadgetry, Us vs. Them, seedy weapons merchants, Q and M, world travel and double-crossings to go.
And boy, do you know you're in the '80s. Bond crosses paths with an eccentric gunrunner (Joe Don Baker) who plays with dangerous toy soldiers, a Nordic freelance agent who kills with Walkmans and an Afghan freedom fighter with an Oxford accent.
The most obvious sign of the times is that sex is out, out, ouch. These are no longer the Martini-ad 1960s, when girls doffed lingerie at the mere mention of "Bond, James Bond," and when AIDS was still a present participle. Dalton's Bond spends his time chasing one -- count her, one -- female and with romantic zeal rather than with Connery's elegant, almost indolent rakishness. Miss Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss), now a sultry blonde behind librarian's glasses, can't rouse Bond either. And when he parachutes out of the hazy blue practically into the lap of a swimsuit beauty, he says: "I need to use your telephone."
Assigned to wipe out an assassin in Czechoslovakia, Bond finds his target is beautiful cellist Kara Milovy, who was bowing his heart earlier at a concert. But Bond shoots to miss and gets caught up in a series of 007 convolutions involving a defecting Czech officer (Jeroen Krabbe'), KGB head General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) and all those other guys.
Bond films must be scarce in Czechoslovakia because she shows little interest in the glamorous Brit. But after he persuades Kara her boyfriend ain't the tovarich she thought, she waxes warmer. The movie ends tactfully, or squeamishly, before consummation.
Mattress activity being at an all-time low, let's talk toys. Naturally the Aston Martin is back. It blows holes in a truck and has a set of pop-down skis -- in case it just happens to come across an icy lake. And Q gives James a set of keys that open 90 percent of the world's locks and blow open the ones it can't. (The explosive is triggered, of course, by a wolf whistle). The company's also developing a ghetto blaster "for the Americans," which does more than blast rap music. Toys alone won't save Bond; we know that. He'll have to draw on his variegated talents -- the ability to outski gunfire, fly a plane, pronounce the Afghani for "beautiful," and pick the best restaurants in Karachi.
Maybe it's just as well for the free world Bond no longer plays hanky-panky. Because, with unscrupulous gunrunners, drug dealers and communists rubbing sleazy shoulders the world over, there's a lot of work to be done.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (R) -- At area theaters.