I'm a big fan of the James Bond film series but I'm also one of the first to admit that very few of the films are perfect. In fact, sometimes watching several of the older James Bond films (and some of the newer ones too) is a process of overlooking the problems to enjoy the whole. Such is the case with the Man with the Golden Gun. There's a lot of good in this movie but the problems are numerous starting with the most obvious - the return of the
sheriff character from the previous film LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) . In LALD he
was a mildly humorous or sadly annoying asshole character depending on your
tolerance for hick/redneck caricatures. He stuck out as dumb and unnecessary
but he didn't make the film less effective or credible. Such is not the case
with J. W. Pepper's appearance in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. He pops up with
his wife on vacation in Thailand
and just so happens to cross paths with Bond at the right time to be involved
in a high speed care chase. This series of events are so unlikely and so
clearly the product of the writers being forced to bring the character back for
a second go round that it would be a sore point even if the character never
entered the action. And his scenes underscore one of the biggest problems the
Bond series built for itself in the 1970's which is that somehow in the world
of these films James Bond is publically known to be a British spy. WTF? This
became a reoccurring point in the Moore
years and each time it is mentioned as it is in this film it destroys the flimsy
artificial world that the series has built up.
I rewatched this the other night because I wanted to see Christopher Lee's Scaramanga character again but I was dreading the film overall. My memory was that this was a very disappointing Bond outing and there was little beyond the scenery to recommend it. But this time around I found myself enjoying the film more than my last watch. Indeed, I finally enjoyed the pre-credit sequence for what it is - a darker version of the Kato vs. Clouseau battle/training sequences from the Pink Panther films. Plus, Lee is really good in the role even if I wish the script had worked harder to draw out the 'two sides of the same coin' aspect of his and Bond's characters. As it stands it's brought up and dismissed in the course of one dinner scene so that it feels far too truncated - almost an afterthought.
Sill, I liked MWTGG more this time than when I watched it about five years ago. It still has the same problems and failings but its strengths stood out more prominently for me this time. I liked seeing Bond as a tough, abusive jerk when he threatens Maud Adams's character because it is what he would be given his situation in the story. I always prefer the gentlemanly aspect of Bond to be a thin veneer hiding the violent man beneath and here
Moore was still willing
to play the character that way. He softened him over the next couple of films
until the darker Bond final returned in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981).
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN will never be one of my favorites of the series but I now feel good putting it in the 'plus' column - but just barely.