I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Big Boss (aka Fists of Fury)

tn_bigbossbruceleeiconTHE BIG BOSS would be a good one to watch on Labor Day, because it’s a scathing indictment of corruption within the Chinese ice industry. About time somebody blew the lid off that shit. Cheng (Bruce M.F. Lee) gets a job loading big blocks of ice, which the workers don’t realize have bags of coke inside (even though they saw one of the bags when one of the blocks broke open. But this was a more naive time). The foremen are extra-abusive, slapping people around and shit. To be frankly honest I think these particular workers are a bunch of whiners who don’t seem to work very hard, but they’re right to stand up for their rights when a co-worker gets hit or goes missing.

Unfortunately Cheng can’t really do anything because you know how it is when you wear one of those medallions that reminds you you promised your late mother never to fight again. In one frustrating scene Cheng just stands around watching while a whole bunch of union-smasher types beat the hell out of his colleagues. They all think he’s an asshole for not helping, but luckily some dumb sucker accidentally tears off his medallion, and Cheng is unleashed. There’s a real good overhead shot showing him kicking out a circle of thugs that surround him. One guy he kicks so fast I had to rewind it to make sure the guy didn’t just keel over from unrelated health issues.

mp_bigbossCheng proves to be such a threat that management gives in and makes him foreman. He tries to change things from the inside, but this movie recognizes the universal truth that the little guy can complain and complain about the bosses and then turn just like them as soon as he gets the chance. The manager invites Cheng to dinner, gets him drunk, gets him laid. His friends are waiting for him to come back with news  about the search for their missing buddies, but nobody sees him until the next morning when the girl he likes spots him stumbling out of a whorehouse. Whoops. So much for being the cool foreman that everybody likes.

Still, he tries to get to the bottom of it. When he goes to the Big Boss’s mansion there’s a really weird fight with the guard dogs, a bunch of dobermans (dobermen?). Cheng keeps super-jumping over these dogs, and the dogs keep jumping at him. But I don’t know man, it sure looks alot like somebody throwing dogs in the air. Not trying to make any accusations, but I believe there is a possibility of dogthrowing in this production. Anyway, then he comes in and the boss welcomes him as a guest. No “Sorry about my dogs attacking you” or “jesus, why’d you kick my dogs?” or anything. Like it never happened.

You might find this surprising to hear, but the fights are real good. No nunchakas yet, just fists (of fury), feet (of outrage) and knives (of profound disappointment). It’s all pretty down to earth except that he takes on 10-15 guys at a time and does those jumps (he leaps a tall fence without even a running start). One of my favorite moves is when he kicks a guy through a wall and uses the hole it creates to exit the building. For some reason his opponents use the door, even though it would be more direct to just follow him. I think they don’t want to lend credibility to his kicks by using his hole as a portal.

Oh man, there’s another part where he kicks a guy through a wall and the hole it makes is human-shaped, like in a cartoon. You may be thinking wait a minute Vern, why did you say it was “all pretty down to earth” then? Well, because these are all things Bruce could and did do all the time in real life. He was Bruce Lee, remember.

Definitely the most classic badass moment in the movie is when he invades The Big Boss’s property for the final showdown. While all the bodyguards surround him and get ready to stab him he stands casually munching on some chips. And after he takes out the first couple guys he eats another one. This was the same year as DIRTY HARRY, so I think it’s a coincidence, it’s not one copying the other. It was the times we were livin in, man. Future-iconic-action-hero-munches-casually-on-food-while-doing-badass-shit was just in the air in 1971. In fact, I think the whole planet was vibrating with badass because how else did DIRTY HARRY, THE BIG BOSS, GET CARTER, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, BILLY JACK, DUEL, SWEET SWEETBACK’S BADASSSSS SONG, THEY CALL ME TRINITY, VANISHING POINT and SHAFT all come out in the same year?

(geez, do they ever make that many good movies in a year anymore? There was also A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, WILLY WONKA, THX 1138, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, STRAW DOGS, OMEGA MAN, PLAY MISTY FOR ME, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, MCCABE & MRS. MILLER, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, KLUTE, HAROLD AND MAUDE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES… so many movies people still watch all the time. I’m not sure 2005 even has that many movies that people still watch.)

The Big Boss is a real dick. He pretends to care about the workers when actually he’s having some of them taken out and frozen in ice blocks, which in my opinion is not a good business practice and should be against OSHA rules. He tells the workers to be frugal and save their money, but meanwhile he’s got girls feeding him and massaging his back during meetings, he lives in this big mansion, and those dogs that jump so high it looks exactly like somebody picked them up and threw them as high as they could into the air can’t come cheap. His “Just how evil is he moment?” is when he’s smoking and he burns a girl with the ashes and then he blames her and calls her an idiot.

I was really surprised that this guy knew how to fight. He seems like the type of villain that should be filing his nails while henchmen do the dirty work. But he gives Cheng a good duel. Maybe he moved up the totem pole the same way Cheng did, by beating up 10 or 15 guys at a time.

mp_bigbossBTHE BIG BOSS is thought of as the first Bruce Lee movie, because it’s his first adult starring vehicle. But actually he had been in all kinds of movies as a kid. In fact his Chinese name “Lee Jun Fan” translates literally to “Chinese Kurt Russell.” Still, this is a cruder movie than his other ones, he was just figuring out how to completely reinvent the martial arts movie and turn the whole thing on its head and change the world forever, etc.

Some of you rascals have already been tearing THE BIG BOSS a new one in the comments for my previous review, pre-rebutting this review while I was still writing it. Well I disagree. It may be sloppy in some ways and get some unintentional laughs, but it’s a template for the kind of formula martial arts movies I enjoy, movies that take place in the modern world, and have a regular guy who happens to be good at martial arts who is pushed into a corner where he must fight a bunch of mean bastards and make things right. It’s that type of movie but with a much more impressive physical specimen than usual. Not to be controversial but in my opinion Bruce Lee was really good at kung fu and shit. It’s always enjoyable to watch him.

And I like the sentiments behind it. While certain more polished Lee vehicles (I’m looking at you, FIST OF FURY) are based on bullshit nationalistic themes, this one has the universally admirable working-man-vs.-asshole-boss story at its heart. You could watch a movie about coal miners going on strike, or one about Bruce Lee kicking a rich guy’s dog in the mouth. Both are good but I prefer the second one. The kicking the dog one.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010 at 12:57 am and is filed under Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

79 Responses to “The Big Boss (aka Fists of Fury)”

  1. I like that when you review a classic film like this you treat it like a film and not an some rare artifact. When people write about classic cinema everything almost always gets distorted because they aren’t actually watching the film anymore– it’s like they are watching an idol with no intent to look at the work as just another film from 1972 (in this case).
    Thanks for keeping things real!

  2. This was my first Bruce Lee film, watched it over and over as a kid, so it remains my favourite, although Fists of Fury and the two Dragon ones are better overall.

    There’s not a lot of fighting in this one, but it’s great because you have to wait for it, you’re rooting for someone to bitchslap Bruce so he’ll get pissed off and go nuts.

    There’s four things that stick out about this movie to me:

    1) some of the characters: the Shu-Shein character, the only other awesome fighter in this movie is dead cool. also, the fat cousin who’s in a bunch of other movies too and who is the template sterotype for the chinese fat comic relief character who always goes around with his shirt undone, then turns round the corner and sees a bunch of skinny chinese thugs dressed in punk gear and holding sticks. Zoom in on his surprised face, and cut to his being chased down a street flailing his arms wildly and yelling the trademark “AWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAAA!!!”

    2) the awesome badassness of that moment with the chips. Nothing I know is in that league of badassitude. Black Dynamite shutting shop in that bar, Clint Eastwood telling some dudes to apologise to his mule, all good, but not as good as Bruce munching on chips. Only thing that comes close is Harmonica’s bits in Once Upon a Time.

    3) the colour of the blood in this movie is like it’s gone radioactive, ‘specially that blood he slips on in the house. It still horrified me as a 5 year old though.

    4) that thai whore’s titties.

    Anyway, good review man. And you’re right about the dogs, obviously. In a book about Bruce Lee I have, there’s photos of the crew throwing dogs at him. Not that you’d need photographic evidence to figure it out.

    Peace

  3. Sorry, Vern, but I still gotta disagree with you on this one. Nothing really worked for me, not the characters, not the setting, not even the fights. And the factory workers were just so goddamn stupid! Really, really irritating. “Fists of Fury” has basically the same plot, but about ten times better than this.

  4. Vern – class review. The image of dobermans being flung at Bruce Lee tickles me no end. Have you seen Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, which has the final day of filming on Big Boss interrupted by Bruce being challenged to a deathmatch by the brother of some guy he’d crippled earlier?

    The more “cartoon” elements of Big Boss are down to director Wei Lo. Apparently Bruce was against the man-shaped hole in the wall
    and also the flying-kick duel at the end, but Wei Lo won out. I guess they sorted out their differences by the
    time they made Fist of Fury.

  5. “In fact his Chinese name “Lee Jun Fan” translates literally to “Chinese Kurt Russell.” Pound for pound one of the funniest fucking things I’ve ever read in my life.

    You know I get into this argument quite a bit. I personally don’t think Bruce Lee is overrated or anything. I just don’t like it when people say Enter the Dragon is the best martial arts film ever (not even his best movie, imo) or that his fights are generally all that great. Take the fight in Return of the Dragon against Chuck Norris. It’s essentially a squash. I think most of his fights are squashes. Nobody ever really gave him much of a run for his money. While I understand the huge cultural significance of Bruce Lee, I really don’t think he’s the be all and end all of martial arts actors.

  6. All I know about this movie is that a lobby card exists in which we see Bruce killing a man by pramming a sawblade into his head, but the scene itself is not in the movie, was apparently cut out before its release and is missing till today. One millionaire in New Zealand claims to have the full version, including the saw-scene in his safe, but he refuses to show it to anybody, so of course everybody calls him a liar and a poo-poo-head and stuff like that.

  7. Enter the Dragon is a great exploitation movie, but a poor martial arts movie overall. There are excellent sequences
    – Angela Mao’s fight with O’Harra and his goons, and O’Harra vs Lee being my faves. But Robert Clouse really
    didn’t know how to shoot fight scenes (having Bruce stationary in the centre of the screen and having goons
    run at him) and the concept of contestants wearing yellow Gis was pretty awful.

    it was great seeing Bob Wall turn up at the end of Blood and Bone, and have Julian Sands yell “O’Harra!!”.

  8. Hilarious review, Vern. Has anyone else noticed the tendency for Bruce Lee martial arts films to end with him being arrested? This, Fists of Fury, and Game Of Death(the eventually released version, not the original premise) all end that way, with only Enter the Dragon and Way of said Dragon different.

  9. “No nunchakas yet, just fists (of fury), feet (of outrage) and knives (of profound disappointment).”

    This was funny enough to make me forget that a volcano in Iceland is fucking with my travel plans, thanks Vern.

  10. Love how the camera operator never seems to set up his zoom shots ahead of time, so that he has to reframe in the middle of the shot.

    Swoosh – pan – pan – resume swoosh.

    And that soundtrack music. Such awesomeness that has almost never anything to do with the action on the screen. There’s a shot where this amazing heroic crescendo is playing over Lee . . . walking down a hallway.

    Classic crap only watchable for the Man.

  11. Sir Vince, hah good point!
    It’s true about the soundtrack’s awesomeness. I think the Big Boss has one of the all-time great soundtracks. i’ve been trying to find it for ages and have never been able to

  12. Lawrence – Sure, but he is the most important. Big difference I think we can agree with.

    Vern – Off-topic since you mentioned it, but am I the only one who thinks DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is one of the worst 007 movies? Especially the most boring and worthless of the Sean Connery entries.

  13. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 8:15 am

    RRA: Which Bond films do you like the most, particularly among the Connery/Moore films? Which ones hold up better for you?

  14. I’m sort of with Lawrence. Bruce Lee had all the charisma in the world, but his kung fu (at least onscreen) was pretty primitive compared to what Gordon Liu, the Venoms, etc., were doing around the same time. His fights also always seemed so one-sided. Bruce kicks a guy. Guy goes down. Repeat. There was very little of the amazing combative dances that the Shaw Brothers were putting in their movies. But like Bruce said, emotional content matters. When Bruce kicked a dude in the face, he made you feel that impact through his presence and acting skill. That’s what made him an icon. All those other dudes could bust backflips all day but they’d never match what Bruce Lee could pull off just by arching his eyebrow.

  15. Jareth: I’m going with From Russia With Love.

  16. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Mr. Majestyk: Do you feel that Eastwood’s shooting skills in his films with Leone are similarly one-sided, and does that detract from the films for you? Or is there so much more happening in those films that it isn’t such a big deal? Do the scenes where Clint’s character takes a beating somehow compensate for his flawless shooting skills?

    Also: What should a guy who isn’t a fan of Bond, and who hasn’t watched an old Bond film in 20 years, look for in FROM RUSSIA that he won’t see in DIAMONDS?

  17. Jareth: Yeah, but it’s different. No matter how good a shot he’s supposed to be, I know that he’s not really shooting anything. It’s the attitude he has while shooting that sells it, and Clint has that in abundance. But in kung fu, they have to be able to actually physically perform the actions I’m watching to a certain extent. It’s like the circus; I want to see the acrobats perform. I’ve been pretty impressed by the badassness of Bruce Lee’s fights, but never particularly wowed by their choreography, and that’s really what I watch a kung fu movie for. In fact, I don’t watch a Bruce Lee movie when I’m in the mood for kung fu. I watch a Bruce Lee movie when I’m in the mood for Bruce Lee.

    As for FRWL, it’s as different from DAF as could be. One has satellites and lasers, the other is just a bunch of assassins trying to kill James Bond on a train. It’s the stripped down version of Bond that has become so popular in recent years.

  18. But then again, I guess, yeah, when some other dude who doesn’t have Clint’s innate awesomeness manages to shoot everybody in sight without breaking a sweat, it’s not all that exciting to watch.

  19. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Majestyk: My nephew is going to be so bummed out when he learns that the famous Eastwood/Van Cleef shooting-hats-duel/pissing contest/bonding scene in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE didn’t involve real bullets. The little tyke loves that scene.

    But you make a good point. I guess it’s not fair to lump gunfights and kung fu into one generic “action” pile.

    I guess I was just struck by the similarities between Bruce Lee and Eastwood: neither really performs spectacular feats in their definitive movies, but the charisma carries the films.

  20. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Majestyk: My pal Lee Marvin Girl will go all Hit Girl on you if you consider Lee Van Cleef to be one of those “other guys” who shoots well and is boring. She actually prefers Van Cleef to Eastwood, and considers him the real hero of FEW DOLLARS MORE.

  21. Mr. Majestyk – I think its more that FRWL was early Bond before it got formualized into an action cartoon spectacle, like DAF. You know, FRWL actually remembers to be a Spy movie, something that franchise tends to forget alot for some reason.

    Probably why I have a strong soft side for FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, both which play terrible on TV. Spy thrillers tend to suffer with frequent commercials.

    Jareth – My Top 10 I suppose:

    1. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
    2. GOLDFINGER (1964)
    3. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
    4. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
    5. OF HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
    6. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
    7. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
    8. GOLDENEYE (1995)
    9. DR. NO (1962)
    10. LIVE & LET DIE (1973)

    Worst Moore: A VIEW TO A KILL, wow that…might be the worst of the entire series. What a colossal fuckup in every way. I mean how can you waste Chris Walken this side of that Disney animatronic bears movie?

  22. “But you make a good point. I guess it’s not fair to lump gunfights and kung fu into one generic “action” pile.”
    Is it though? I mean, gunfights can be varied and take on different styles and be more than just guy shooting other guys. Compare a gunfight from say, HARD BOILED to a gunfight from COMMANDO. Pretty different.

  23. RRA, you have a point, but even compared to DR. NO, FRWL seems pretty back-to-basics. There’s no world-threatening plot, no massive secret lair, just a bunch of dudes trying to kill Bond for making them look like assholes.

    I personally think that LICENSE TO KILL is a really underrated movie. I like it a lot better than THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, which really drags in a lot of parts.

  24. Licence To Kill IS underrated. It’s the Bond movie that the Daniel Craig-movies so hard to try to be (but fail, fail, fail in every category).

  25. Hmm, now that I think about it, all of my favorite Bond movies are the ones where he takes a break from saving the world and just deals with his own personal shit. There’s that emotional content again.

  26. Dr. Peaches N. Herb

    April 16th, 2010 at 10:06 am

    On the subject of Bruce Lees’ kung fu skills, I’ve always liked the directness of it. Bruce Lee was the first martial artist I ever saw as a kid, and after I started watching Jackie Chan and old school Shaw Brothers stuff, I came to appreciate the concept of a guy who basically takes people down with one hit… especially when you feel those hits. Not that I don’t appreciate dancelike choreography and acrobatic athleticism, but every once in a while I just want to see a guy kick another guy so hard that the other guy decides not to get up ever again.

    And as for Licence To Kill, I think that Timothy Dalton is more underrated than the movie itself is, but that last action sequence is probably the second best in any Bond movie ever…

  27. DPH – I was always more impressed with the TLD climax where you had two bonafide stunt men hanging off that rope net in mid-air from an airplane. I appreciate such things more and more in this CGI epoch. Also stone cold bastard touch when Dalton-Bond deliberetly cuts the shoe to drop the guy thousands of feet to his death. Not in self-defense or that usual stuff, he wanted that sucker to drop hard.

    Though I suppose that can’t compete with Robert Davi becoming a human fireball or Benicio Del Toro getting crunched up in the coke grinder. But LTK just…doesn’t work for me.

    If anything, I think of the reverse. Daniel Craig pulled off what LTK wanted to do but coudn’t. Plus that ending of LTK is totally inappropriate. What’s to be so happy about Senor Bond?

  28. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 10:24 am

    CJ Holden: Is it the way the action scenes are filmed that bothers you about the Daniel Craig Bond films?

  29. I really like CASINO ROYALE because Craig seems more like the Bond of the books. He’s not an aristocrat who was taught how to fight, he’s a thug who was taught to be civilized so he can blend in in the places he needs to go. But I still haven’t seen QUANTUM OF STUPID NAME because everything I heard about the way the action was filmed kind of horrified me. I think my expectations are finally low enough that I’ll give it a shot soon, though.

  30. My favourite part of The Big Boss is where Bruce makes a punching motion for emphasis during a conversation and the movie cuts to a new scene right on that beat.

    As for his kung fu, I have always preferred it to the flashier styles out there (though I love those as well). I read his Jeet Kune Do book a couple of times as a kid, so that may result in a different perspective. As his whole book boils down to “the right action at the right time, no more and no less”, I think he preferred to do moves that were closer to something one might do in a practical fight than something acrobatic. I remember some documentary about the old Hong Kong scene that had a big part about him, and it mentioned that, when asked about why he would often do some variation on his “three kicks in a row” combo on camera, he responded that he would only need three kicks to knock that opponent down.

    Obviously, high-action and more fantastic approaches to matrial arts onscreen are awesome. For me, though, it’s a more down-to-earth style that satisfies.

  31. Dr. Peaches N. Herb

    April 16th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    RRA- You’re right, of course. The Living Daylights is by far a better movie than LTK, which felt more like an attempt to mimic late 80’s action movies than an actual Bond film. Daylights was uneven (sometimes it felt like a Roger Moore installment that they hastily rewrote when Moore didn’t come back), but if one movie has Jeroen Krabbe, Joe Don Baker, and John Rhys-Davies; and the other one has Wayne Newton, Robert Davi, and Talisa Soto, it’s not hard to figure out which one is going to work out better…

    Mr Majestyk- I actually recommend Quantum of Solace. Yes, the action is shot horribly, but Daniel Craig has some pretty choice moments, and I actually love Mathieu Almaric’s sleazy performance as the villain. He just seemed like the kind of guy who was more interested in trying to talk your girlfriend into posing nude for him than in his own world domination plot…

    (I don’t know if that comparison worked, exactly, but I stand by it)

  32. Mr. M – I would consider QOS’ action cinematography to be no better or worse then the contemporary action stylism.

    Plus there is a good scene you’ll like when Craig without flinching basically beats a guy to death to steal his I.D.

    I always think too Bond is a guy who has to be, or is, a bastard to do his job right. It comes with the territory.

  33. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I saw both Craig Bond films for the first time back to back on video last year and really couldn’t see any stylistic differences or major changes in tone between the two films. Admitedly, I’m not a Bond fan, so I was probably pretty oblivious to the nuances that a fan would have noticed.

    At the risk of sounding like a total tool, I preferred the Bourne movies.

  34. Jareth – I wonder if James Bond was ordered to take out Jason Bourne…if he could?

    That’s right, Nerd Speculation Time!

  35. Jareth: The way the action is filmed (at least in Casino Royale) is seriously the best part of the new Bonds. My problems start with the casting of Daniel Craig (who has IMO just a little bit more charisma than Michael Cera, but has the same amount of facial expressions[2]) and ends with Bond becoming just another REALLY invincible action hero, who can even fistfight although someone shot a nail into his shoulder and even shakes off his own death, just like someone just pinched his nipples! Bond has always been some kind of invincible, but now it’s getting ridiculous. And the producers promised us a new and improved Bond, but it’s pretty much the same old Malibu Stacy, but with a brand new hat. All the flaws of the Brosnan era are still there (Probably because the writers also are) , only that they sucked all joy out of the series.

  36. Sir Vince – the question is, which soundtrack do you mean? I noticed some distorted electric guitars and I thought wait a minute, is this really the original soundtrack? So I switched the audio track and found a more traditional Hong Kong cinema score. I think the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks (at least on this particular DVD) had entirely different scores. Someone on another comment thread said some of the music in one version was lifted from THE HILLS HAVE EYES.

  37. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    CJ HOLDEN: I’m totally biased here, but, based on his work as George Micheal Bluth, I think Cera has a certain kind of charisma. And I thought his comedic timing on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT was really good. I heard that he improvised many of those nervous ticks and gestures. I counted more than two expressions, but yeah, they’re all variations on the same nervous teen angst and awkwardness thing. Maybe he’s pissed away some goodwill on all those movies I haven’t bothered to see after SUPERBAD.

    But I can’t argue about the “joyless” new Bond. The guy ain’t a laugh riot, that’s for sure, and the tone of the films in general is almost laughably serious. I prefer them to the campy MOONRAKER type stuff, but if I ever bothered to read a Bond novel I’m sure I’d find all sorts of deficiencies with Craig Bond.

    And you’re right about the invincibility thing. It’s not preposterous, but it can be unintentionally funny too.

    What sort of action hero are you thinking of who can combine the best of all Bonds? McClane? Jack Ryan? Cody Banks?

    RRA: A buddy of mine insists that luck plays a huge factor in the Bourne’s survival in those
    movies; if that’s true, he might be in trouble. But to get real geeky on you, how about they go the Eastwood/Van Cleef route and TEAM UP! Against robots! Yeah!

  38. Not to interrupt the conversation on Bond films to discuss dog-throwing, but I would like to say my personal favorite animal-throwing scene has to be the cat attack! in INFERNO, where someone off-screen is obvious chucking cats at this girl. It’s obvious the cats don’t want to be flying towards her any more than she wants them too. I love INFERNO for many reasons (half legitimate, half ironic), but that scene is so charmingly inept that I always rewind it a couple times. Despite the cats’ obvious reluctance to hurl themselves at her, take heed of one asshole cat who obviously got too into his role. While she’s on the ground, this one fucker runs up behind her head and wacks her with his paw. Don’t tell me you can train a cat to do that. The little bastard saw an opportunity and took it.

  39. Michael Cera was without a doubt great in Arrested Development, but I wouldn’t call him charismatic (even though that’s probably because he never had to play someone with charisma. Although I haven’t seen Youth In Revolt yet. Maybe he delivers there.).
    And I wish the new Bonds would be more Iron Man than The Dark Knight (I know, these two came after Casino Royale). I mean, Iron Man dealt with terrorism, torture and stuff like that, but it was a fun adventure movie! Even the more “realistic” Bonds (like the earliest ones or the Dalton-era [if you can call 2 movies an era] had this exciting adventure vibe, that is seriously missing in the new ones. I can’t wait for the day when filmmakers realize again, that realism and grit doesn’t mean boredom and unintentional comedy. (Like the torture scene in Casino Royale. Yes, getting your balls crunched hurts and apparently the scene is taken right out of the book, but unfortunately it is also one of the most popular gags in slapstick comedies.)

  40. Ok, first of all, to Mike: I cannot disagree with you more on “Enter the Dragon” being a bad martial arts movie. The only bad / cliche’d fight in it is Roper vs Bolo, which does the whole JCVD final fight thing of the seemingly invulnerable villain suddenly losing all of his skills halfway through the fight for no apparent reason.

    But the rest… wow. Just wow.

    Lee’s sister and master vs Oharra – a great chase scene with a pretty shocking ending.

    “Fighting without fighting” on the boat – very funny, and highlights the fact that while Lee might be an asshole, he does the right thing.

    The opening salvo at the island – Lee, Roper and Williams walking across the raised paths with hundreds of martial artists training below them – spectacular.

    Roper, Lee and Williams’ first fights – I particularly enjoyed Roper’s, where he allows his opponent to hit him in order to raise Williams’ odds for the bet that Williams has made, before just demolishing him with a single blow. If there’s a better way to show how badass a character is than this, I can’t recall it.

    Oharra vs Lee – What I’ve often noticed about “revenge” scenes in martial arts films is that, after some initial posturing (“You killed my father / master / girlfriend / pet tortoise, prepare to die!”) the actual fight is fairly conventional. Besides the main character looking a little more intense, often with his hair wet and his face lit by a blazing fire, he’s basically fighting the same as he always has. Not here. Lee doesn’t just want to fight Oharra, not even kill him, he wants to HUMILIATE him. And boy, does he do it. I must have seen this film six or seven times, and this sequence still has me reeling. And again, the first time you see the film, it’s completely unexpected, which makes it all the more effective.

    Williams vs Mr Han – one of the all-time great movie deaths, and I could write a small essay on why this is so. It’s shocking, it’s bloody, it’s violent, it’s a visceral and emotional kick to the gut.

    Lee vs a small army of guards – look, the nunchuk scene shouldn’t be in the movie. It just slows things down. Don’t bother with the “extended” edition of the film, all that’s really added is an unnecessary bit of Lee at his sister’s grave and the famous deleted nunchuk bit where he gets to stand there waving two sticks around like a ponce instead of making his escape while being hunted by every guard on the damn island. The theatrical cut of this sequence, though, is fantastic. The way Lee uses EVERYTHING as a weapon – from a sack to a pole to a motherfucking snake – it’s inventive and fast-paced from start to finish. And the bit where he has two sticks, fights off a small army of guards, and just when it looks like he’s finished, he suddenly lashes out at something off screen and one last guard falls slowly into view and topples over at his feet. It’s a great last kicker to that sequence. How the heck is that not brilliant action directing?

    Roper vs Bolo – yeah, this one’s a bit crap. But hell, everyone’s allowed ONE mistake.

    Army vs army – this is a fairly conventional sequence, but it’s brief enough to not spoil things, and it’s made a little greater by Lalo Schifrin’s excellent score.

    Lee vs Han (part one) – Again, Lee looks to be clearly on top of things. And for a while it looks as though this will turn into another cliche’d JCVD-ending-style fight, until you get…

    Lee vs Han (part two) – The Bit With The Mirrors And The Motherfucking Claw. Once again, the film takes us to a place – literally – that we haven’t been to before. And what a place it is! They COULD just have had Lee fight Han in a knock-down-drag-out vicious grudge match, make it clear that the odds are stacked against our hero, then pulled out a gimmick or a reversal that allowed Lee to beat him, like 95% of all the other martial arts movies ever made. Instead they give us this fantastic sequence of two men stalking each other in a hall of mirrors. And one of them has a giant metal claw. And need I mention the significance of the mirrors and Lee’s scars in a movie that is all about vanity? This is just perfection.

    So here’s what I love about “Enter the Dragon”. It’s a martial arts movie that wasn’t made by a martial arts director. And what he brings to it is two things: first of all, a lot of things from “conventional” movies that wouldn’t necessarily be seen in a more run-of-the-mill martial arts movie. You have a great cast of characters, each of them well-acted and well-characterised throughout. You also have a shedload of imagery, some of which adds to the various themes of the movie, some of which just adds to the experience in terms of cinematography. This guy may not know martial arts, but he knows film, and he uses that knowledge superbly throughout.

    But he also brings a fresh mind to the action sequences. Often, especially in the lesser Jackie Chan movies, the same fights seem to be repeated again and again, with similar choreography, props and moves. The end result is that they can get rather boring and predictable. Now there’s NOTHING in “Enter the Dragon” that I would call boring or predictable, apart from possibly the Roper-Bolo fight (and again, everyone’s allowed one mistake!) So much conventional wisdom about martial arts movies was abandoned in this film. And that’s what I love about it.

  41. Holy crap, that was longer than intended! Apologies for wall-of-text everyone. I think it’s down to the wide font, because it really didn’t look like that much when I was writing it.

  42. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    So we’re agreed: all future ball-related torture in a spy movie should be confined to AUSTIN POWERS and CODY BANKS.

    I looked at the definition of “charisma.” George Micheal Bluth probably does meet requirement #1: A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm, and
    #2 is unlikely: Personal magnetism or charm.

    Maybe “sympathetic” is the word I was thinking of.

  43. Jareth – Yeah you want joyful Bond? DIE ANOTHER DAY is right there, it was so joyful, it killed a 40 year old franchise.

    That’s right, it did what MOONRAKER and A VIEW TO A KILL couldn’t do….stopped 007.

  44. I wouldn’t say it killed it, considering there was a new movie out less than four years later. That’s less time than there was between License to Kill and Goldeneye.

  45. Just to be clear, DIE ANOTHER DAY is terrible. I don’t want anyone getting confused on that fact.

  46. Mr. S, your Inferno cat attack story reminded me of the only scene in ‘Giant’ that I really remember. Rock Hudson and James Dean are about to have some sort of real significant emotional confrontation in a walk-in freezer (or maybe it was just a storage room) and as they enter some random cat tears ass across the screen as if it was fired out of a cannon. I had to rewind that thing several times. It lasted about 2 seconds but that cat managed to upstage Dean effortlessly.
    Does anyone remember this scene as vividly as I do? I’m kinda proud of my obscure reference.
    At any rate, I think it’s sad that the golden age of animals-as-projectiles in film is long past. Why bother to train the damnable things when you can just chuck them at the actors?

  47. Die Another Day has to be the worst of the series for me. The only one I won’t re-watch. I’ll be boring and say that GOLDFINGER is my favorite, as the flick that delivers a superlative demonstration every item on the Bond checklist. By that formula, the reason is stands above FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE for me, is that Daniella Bianchi is a middle-drawer Bond Girl, for my money. GOLDFINGER is strong in just about every important Bond area I can think of:

    BOND HIMSELF: The best, “Man talk.”
    VILLAIN: Gert Frobe, Great Villian.
    BOND GIRLS: Honor Blackman, Great Bond Girl. (Plus the iconic Shirley Eaton).
    HENCHMAN: Odd Job, Great Henchman.
    WILD VILLAINOUS PLOT: Fort Knox scheme is absurd, hilarious, and would make total sense to a sociopath.
    BOND STYLE: In abundance, starting strong with the tux under the wetsuit.
    SUSPENSE/ACTION: The iconic laser beam scene, great final fight with odd-job, etc.
    ‘GAME’ WITH VILLAIN: Love the gold scene.
    GADGETS: The Astin Martin, awesome.
    SCORE/SONG: John Barry and Shirley Bassy with the all-time greats.
    DESIGN: The great Ken Adam in top form.

    The only “Incomplete” I can think of is the MAIN TITLES; if Goldfinger had Maurice Binder titles it would be the ultimate, ultimate Bond movie. (Though it is anyway, in my book).

  48. Whupps. “Golf” scene, not Gold scene. And Bassey, not Bassy.

  49. Ooooh, Bond debate. Lemme see…

    “On her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “Goldfinger”, “From Russia with Love”, “The Living Daylights” and “License to Kill” are so far above the other Bonds in terms of quality, it’s not worth ranking them. They had pretty much all the most memorable villains between them (does anybody remember the guy who Bond bested in “Thunderbird?” – nope, me neither.) Dalton was the best Bond and the most true to the books. He had more “edge” than any of the others, even Connery. “Live and Let Die” had the best title song, “Goldfinger” the best score. “Goldfinger” was the only Bond movie to change the book’s plot and IMPROVE it. And while I love the oddball revenge film that is “License to Kill”, Milton Krest is the main antagonist of “The Hildebrand Rarity”, a short story in the collection entitled “For Your Eyes Only” that is one of the best short crime stories in print and easily the best thing Ian Fleming ever wrote, so to see him wasted as Sanchez’ disposable henchman in that film is not great.

    Other notables…
    – I despise “Casino Royale”. It’s a two-and-a-half hour Sony advertisement. I was so bored, I spent most of it trying to count the over-the-top references to Sony products (I managed seven before my brain melted into mush.)
    – “Quantum of Solace” is not great, but it’s at least something of a return to form after “Casino”.
    – “Thunderbird” is one of the most boring films I can recall, and would get my vote for the worst of the series, with “A spy who loved me” taking a close second place.
    – “Die Another Day”, “Moonwalker”, “Live and Let Die” and “Diamonds are forever” are campy enough to be enjoyable, to me, even though they’re complete crap.
    – “Goldeneye” is spoilt by Famke Janssen (who manages to be utterly un-sexy and offensively redundant in one package – it’s like the filmmakers, knowing she serves absolutely no purpose to the film, decided to put her in in order to piss off some feminist critics and earn themselves some publicity) but is otherwise decent, and has the most original score.
    – “The World is not Enough” shows the absolute best and worst of Bond in one neat package – you get the terrible one-liners and some ridiculous action sequences, but the main story is sound.
    – Sticking with “TWiNE”, Denise Richards is almost as annoying as Tanya Roberts was in “View to a Kill”, which in turn is the most frustrating Bond ever – it features an immortal Nazi superman and his mad scientist creator, not to mention Grace Jones as their doomed hench-girl, yet instead of seeing more of them we spend most of the film with the most irritating Bond and Bond Girl of the entire canon.
    – Ironically, “Never say never again”, the “unofficial” remake of “Thunderball”, is about ten times as good as “Thunderball” was, despite featuring a ridiculous scene involving Bond and Largo duelling over a videogame that electrocutes the person who plays it. (Nowadays we have “rumblepacks” instead, which serve much the same purpose.) But why are Largo’s hands normal-sized?

  50. CJ HOLDEN: Wow, you thought the ball-busting scene in CASINO ROYALE played as slapstick comedy? Holy shit. You should check out ANTICHRIST, there’s a scene in that that should have you rolling on the floor (and I don’t mean the talking fox).

    RRA: How can you say that Walken in wasted in VIEW TO A KILL? He’s the best thing about it! The scene with him laughing as he guns down his own men makes me crack up every time. The rest of the film is pretty shit though.

    MR. SUBTLETY: Pretty much any film featuring killer rats is great for fans of animal throwing, but my favourite has to be in Bruno Mattei’s RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR. Whenever someone is attacked they basically dump a bucket of live rats over their head.

  51. Jareth Cutestory

    April 16th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Paul: I showed your earlier comments to a couple of Bond fans that I know; they agreed with much of what you had to say, but were surprised that you neglected to mention OCTOPUSSY, which I’ve found is one of the more divisive (and therefore fascinating) films. Personally, I found it only a slight improvement over the unbearably campy MOONRAKER and LIVE & LET DIE, but my buds think it’s pretty good. Neither of these guys think the Roger Moore films are all that good, but are willing to cut THE SPY WHO LOVED ME some slack. They think Lazenby represents the series’ great missed opportunity.

    Both of my Bond buds agreed that there hasn’t been a good Bond song since the 1970s, though one guy said that the Sheena Easton one was the best of a bad lot.

    They also agreed that Michelle Yeoh was wasted.

  52. Jareth – I think A View to a Kill is a great song.

    As far as Enter the Dragon goes, it’s a great movie. I like watching it. But I like my martial art movies the same way I like my wrestling. Sure Hulk Hogan is probably the single most important wrestler like Bruce Lee is the single most important kung fu star but I’d much rather watch a Shawn Michaels or a Dynamite Kid match than a Hulk Hogan match. Same thing goes with Bruce Lee. I’d much rather watch a Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung / or even the great Donnie Yen.

    Speaking of Donnie Yen, it’s a damn shame that Bruce Lee can never have an on-screen fight with Donnie Yen. I think it would have been legendary.

  53. Yo, Vern. This is off-topic (apologies) but Total Film magazine (UK) gives Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer four stars out of five in this month’s issue. Congrats, man! Can’t remember exactly what it said (haven’t got the issue close to hand), but I remember something about being a self-styled asshole who hopefully won’t become too respectable. It was a positive review though, honestly! Will you be putting up posts or threads on here for the book reviews?

    Now, I’m going to actually read the rest of this thread as I see a Bond movie discussion and I can’t let that pass without admitting my love for A View To A Kill. If you ignore Moore’s stunt-wigs, it doesn’t deserve the abuse it gets. Walken was a fantastic villain and he’s definitely as good with an axe as the Roman Polanski-bad guy from Quantum Of Solace (which also gets too much abuse).

  54. Also, Machete release date:

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/44698

    (Apologies if all this above has already been covered by other posters. Had a busy couple of days.)

  55. Jareth – Gladys Knight’s “License to Kill” is a good ‘un from recent times. Also “Goldeneye”‘s theme is great – some good Tina Turner work there.

    Also I liked Octopussy, but because it’s camp fun rather than because it’s any good.

  56. Could never get into the themes for License to Kill or Goldeneye (Didn’t Bono and The Edge write that one for Turner?) as much as I tried. I actually thought the early 80s Moore themes – “For Your Eyes Only”, “All Time High”, and of course “A View to a Kill” were great songs. What’s your opinion on the Bond ending songs though? Nobody really talks about those but the one The Pretenders did for The Living Daylights and the one from License to Kill are awesome. (Yes, i know Celine Dion covered that one but it’s still good)

  57. “unintentional comedy. (Like the torture scene in Casino Royale.”

    The torture scene in Casino Royale is *supposed* to be funny, while also being disturbing. The scene even has very direct jokes by Bond in it (the scratching of the balls). The audience I saw it with certainly understood it just right, as the reactions ranged from shocked gasps to uproarious laughter and back.

    Personally I think Casino Royale is not only the best Bond movie ever made, it’s also probably the funniest. Craig in particular is hilarious. The movie has a great, dry, laconic, and very British wit to it. Maybe that particular brand of humor doesn’t translate that well in some other countries, but I chuckled throughout the film and laughed out aloud several times.

    There are other reasons why it’s the best Bond ever: Masterfully directed action sequences (Yes, masterful. Particularly the whole airport sequence is brilliant), great acting from everyone (well, maybe not that supporting latin chick), and a witty script with real emotional substance, which is something that no other Bond has really ever succesfully done. And Craig gives the best Bond performance ever, along with being the closest interpretation of the original book character. His performance is all about small nuances; slight changes in body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.

    The film does have a problem with an unconventional 4-act structure, which is its greatest flaw, but it’s still the only Bond movie I can honestly call a great, or at least an almost-great movie.

    Oh, and Quantum Of Solace was a huge disappointment for a simple reason: It’s one of the worst-cut big budget Hollywood movies I’ve ever seen. The pacing of the movie is so off throughout, that it’s painful to watch. The drama scenes are always running forward with ridiculous speed and with no sense of proper build-ups and pay-offs. The film never takes time to breathe.

    And the action sequences are almost completely incomprehensible not because of how the they are shot, but because of the way they are edited. When all of your shots last only for 6-18 frames, it just becomes confusing and tiresome in the long run. And I don’t blame the editor, because it’s the director who makes the calls on the overall editing approach.

    Quantum Of Solace is one movie of which I would love to see a wholly re-edited extended version, because the film desperately needs a slower pace that is structured to emotionally engage the audience, instead of just blasting through everything as fast as possible.

    There is a good movie in there somewhere, it was just chopped up so badly it became almost unwatchable.

  58. CaseyF*ckinRyback

    April 18th, 2010 at 3:03 am

    On the earlier mentioned subject of Bond Vs. Bourne… It’s important to remember that Bond, especially Craig’s Bond) is pretty much a killing machine – the guy has a License To Kill he does it so often.

    Whereas Bourne pretty much spends most of his movies avoiding actual murder and moping around guiltily reflecting on those whose lives he took in the past. So while Bourne might have a chance in the actual scrapping stakes, ultimately Bond would have no problem employing some down and dirty neck snap or something.

    Of course, Bourne versus Moore’s Bond (or rather, his stuntman) would be a disaster for Britain’s top action export.

  59. Tukka – there’s a moment in “Casino Royale” when Bond is driving along in an expensive car. Daniel Craig reaches down, pulls out a Sony Satnav, looks at it, puts it back, smiles. That scene has no purpose but to showcase the satnav. The entire movie is like that one scene stretched to two and a half hours. I don’t know where the heck you got the “humor” of the film because I didn’t. I was bored stiff.

    The famous baccarat scene (now poker, because the movie’s sponsored by a poker site that doesn’t “do” baccarat) is stretched to twenty minutes long. The final poker hand is beyond ridiculous to anybody who knows a thing about poker, and incomprehensible to anybody who doesn’t. Who the hell came up with the decision to change baccarat, whose rules absolutely everybody knows or can pick up in ten seconds flat (you have to make your cards add up to as close to nine as possible) to texas hold’em? I can forgive a lot of changes made to details of a book when translated into a film for the sake of differences between the literary and filmatic language, but what artistic reason could there possibly be to make the change from baccarat to poker? (Don’t even bother to try answering that, we all know the reasons have nothing to do with art.)

    And the final line. Ok, do I REALLY need to go into what’s wrong with taking a massive cliche that’s been used, in increasing measures of tongue-in-cheek, for twenty-six previous movies, and trying to make it work as a completely serious exit line?

    And there’s more… I don’t like comparing a film to the book that it’s based on, generally speaking, as long as the film adds something extra in translation. This one doesn’t, so here we go… The book was a minor but effective study in paranoia and the inhumanity of espionage. In the book, Le Chiffre isn’t some scarred supervillain, he’s an intelligent grunt who messed with the wrong people and is in over his head. He’s got himself into the gears and cogs of espionage, but he’s become defective. The real villains, if one can call them that, are never seen, except in one instance for their agent, the faceless bureaucrat who shoots Le Chiffre. This man is a machine, a ghost. He’s never seen again in the story or in the entire Bond canon. He works exactly to his orders, and the only reason that he leaves Bond alive is because his orders don’t include killing him. He’s an emotionless inhuman agent of an infernal machine, and a machine himself.

    And by the end of the book, it becomes clear that this same machine has held Bond’s life, and the lives of many of the main characters, in its grasp throughout. If at any point it had reason to want Bond dead, he’d be dead. The ending of the book is Bond’s realisation that his girlfriend, his boss, his friend, and basically everyone else in his life including himself are just agents of similar machines. His final line, “The bitch is dead”, is his way of submitting to it, of denouncing his humanity and the feelings he had for this woman. If SMERSH is a machine, then to fight it he’ll have to become the same thing.

    The final line of the film is Bond spouting a cliche’d recycled one-liner, dressed in a tux, in front of an Aston Martin, loading into it some guy we don’t know or care about, for some reason that didn’t interest me. And the point is?

    The irritating thing is that in terms of cinematography, direction, acting and to some extent action sequencing, “Casino” is a much better film than many of the older Bonds and some of the more recent ones. Sure as heck there isn’t anything like as bad a performance as Denise Richards’ in “The World is Not Enough” or Tanya Roberts’ in “A View to a Kill”. The one scene in the movie that DID work was pretty damn exhilerating (the parkour sequence). I can’t recall another movie that looks so pretty and moves so little.

    I think “Quantum of Solace” is technically a far worse movie than “Casino”, but at least it does SOMETHING. As flawed as it is, as much as it seems to take refuge in empty action sequences, as much as it occasionally panders to the Bond “traditionalists” to the detriment of story and character (in particular with the completely unnecessary Gemma Arterton character – is it the law to have one unnecessary, irritating Bond girl in every film since the Daltons? Tanya Roberts, Denise Richards, Famke Janssen, Rosamund Pike, even Michelle Yeoh, they all seem to fit the bill), there’s a journey there. There’s plausible character development. The scene with Vesper’s boyfriend at the end is one of the genuine high points of the Bond series for me.

  60. Paul – “That scene has no purpose but to showcase the satnav.”

    Product placement and 007 were fucking in the cheap motel bed for many many many years before Craig came around with room service.

    I mean hell remember that white submarine car in SPY WHO LOVED ME? Total product placement, and it worked: That company had people on waiting lists for years to buy that fucker for years.

  61. Getting back to Bruce: no mention from anyone of the sudden appearance of Pink Floyd on the soundtrack? That was unexpected, to say the least.

    Nothing like a Bond debate to get that internet hornet’s nest a-buzzing.

    Majestyk: these posters pretty much sum up the difference between CR and QoS:

    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=media&img=10006&id=jamesbond21.htm

    http://www.moviemarketingmadness.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/quantum-of-solace-poster-teaser-2.jpg

    Mystery, shadows and elegance with a hint of danger vs Ramboesque brute force. QUANTUM is one long chase and is further marred by the absolute worst type of shakycam/micro-editing bullshit imaginable. It will look HORRIBLY dated in ten years — maybe even five, because I suspect this trend is on its last legs. (Then again, I was wrong about the longevity of Madonna and people wearing their pants below their asses, so don’t bet on it.)

    CrustaceanHate (hate leads to the Dark Side, you know) — Walken WAS pretty amusing in that one. It’s the genteel way he chuckles (as opposed to cackling madly) as he’s machine-gunning his men that makes it so perversely funny. He’s casually entertained by his own evil. I also like the way he laughs, perhaps in disbelief, as he slips to his death (SPOILER).

    He’s played so many OTT bad guys in the years since, it’s hard to remember that his presence was seen as an anomaly at the time. He was still regarded as a “serious” actor, the guy from THE DEER HUNTER, and I recall one critic dismissively saying he gave the first method performance in Bond movie history.

  62. frankbooth – I was also wrong about the PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS joke around here.

  63. RRA – Def. agreed, but in “Casino” it’s more noticeable because there’s nothing else to focus on. I don’t mind a bit of product placement if there’s a good story or characters or gripping scenes. Casino Royale has none of those things. But specifically changing baccarat to poker I think goes so far over the top, it makes pretty much everything else pale into insignificance.

  64. Wow. So much to comment on…

    In the interest of personal time, I’ll restrict to noting that while the Casino Royale movie changes the point to the line about Vesper (who by the way I was tickled to notice was almost surely supposed to be “Moneypenny” in the new film canon), not least because the new film bond is a thug who is given a suit and so never has to become a machine to beat the revealed supervillain group (though admittedly that tracks well enough with Connery’s early portrayal, too, the difference being that we first see him after he’s already spent some time in the suit), a lot of the other points from the story (ably listed by Paul in the comments above) track home pretty closely. Le Chiffre in the film is NOT A SUPERVILLAIN! He’s an ascended “intelligent grunt who messed with the wrong people and is in over his head. He’s got himself into the gears and cogs of espionage, but he’s become defective”. The reveal about the big supergroup kind of misses within the film (though it gets some nods in the sequel), but I think that’s because we’ve become so used to big evil supergroups that we (and the first filmmakers, thus Bond by extraction) take it kind of for granted. (Ironically, the SMERSH/SPECTRE nemesis group was almost missing entirely from the Moore years, and totally absent from the Dalton and Brosnan years, so its re-introduction as QUANTUM is a retro return to form after a long absence. But it still feels expected, so…)

    As noted, the reaction that Bond and everyone he knows has been played by this group, is reserved for QoS instead of CR. But if QoS is considered to be the climactic final hour-and-a-half of the first movie (which I’ve seen mentioned as a concept by several reviewers), then its pacing starts to make better sense anyway, as does CR’s unorthodox narrative structure (and pacing for that matter). Chiffre is a small fish in a much bigger pond, as was acknowledged by M in CR anyway: the whole point was to screw over Chiffre in order that he would lead them to the bigger fish. Which wouldn’t have even been an issue if Chiffre hadn’t been pettily greedy and just done what his QUANTUM bosses hired him to do (provide a safe haven for criminal banking). It was his bomb plot to score big cash on the stock market (like his superiors commonly do) that even gave British Intelligence their first opportunities to hook him. (The main plot of CR opens with Bond chasing the bomb maker.) Unfortunately for everyone involved, Chiffre’s bosses are keeping enough tabs on him to change the game in an ultimately omnipotent way. Unfortunately for QUANTUM, Bond is now seriously pissed and won’t give up, leading to him taking down Mr. Green. (Ironically, even though Mr. White gets away completely despite having been caught by Bond at the end of CR, the actor thinks both movies are shite and refused to cooperate for the upcoming third movie, so his character will be unceremoniously written off. Too bad.)

    It’s true, CR/QoS may have made a tonal error by upscaling the bureaucratic functionary assassin to one of QUANTUM’s (i.e. SMERSH’s) own chief members. But still a lot of the points to the story still come through.

  65. One of my main problems with QoS is that it felt like it had been written by someone working to action film cliche structure. The film was literally “action scene – 10 mins of exposition – action scene – 10 mins – action scene” etc. It was terribly paced because of that, it felt like a producer had read the script and said “guys if there isn’t an action beat every 10 minutes the audience is gonna be bored stiff!” so we have several noticeably unneccessary action sequences (the dogfight stands out as silly and pointless) that ends up having the opposite of effect, instead of keeping up a good pace, it feels like the film is stuck shoehorning in each of these action sequences.

    Oh and yeah a lot of the action sequences are very over edited. It’s not just the shakey cam that’s an issue (I don’t hate the use of it as some do) but that shots last mili-seconds before cutting to another with a poor sense of geography to what’s going on, it’s really noticeable in the opening car chase and ruins it.

  66. Sabreman – on the point of Le Chiffre’s “Superman” status – the plot requires him to be exactly as you describe. But to me there’s a disconnect because that’s not how he’s played or how he’s portrayed. He’s a wisecracking terrorist who organizes airport bombings and manipulates international arms deals, complete with a scowl and a scar. He’s Largo from Thunderbird – there really is no difference between the two characters.

    I do agree with several of the other commentators here on the pacing of QoS though. That film had a LOT of flaws. To me it was the more interesting of the two because if it was a failure, it was an ambitious one. Also Jesper Christiansen saying he wouldn’t be in a third Bond film because his first two were “shit” made me laugh quite a bit! I think that guy’s job opportunities may unexpectedly lessen quite soon…

  67. Apparently, he won’t have to worry as the next Bond film has been shelved according to aintitcool. Too bad.

  68. Honestly, I think it might be a good thing for film in general if they just let the series die. It’s had more reboots than my Windows 95 box of tricks, and it still has yet to convince me that it’s relevant. The Daltons were the last great Bond films. Everything after that I can take or leave. Bond’s an aging mascot. Let him go out with some dignity. Heck, as flawed as QoS was, that final scene in the cabin was probably the best single scene of the last seven or eight films – it sure as hell beats anything in “Casino”, “Die another day” or “TWiNE”. That’s a good note to end on.

    Now let’s give Bond a merciful death and raise our expectations for the fourth installment of the Bourne films – a series that has not only been pretty much consistently excellent but has also raised its standards with each successive film, and I can count the number of series I can think of where that’s happened on the fingers of Abu Hamza’s right hand – instead of vainly hoping for a “return to form” of a franchise that probably should’ve been killed off in the early nineties.

  69. Looks like this thread will never die, but at the risk of starting a whole new debate, I disagree about the Bourne series. 3 was essentially a (more flawed) repeat of 2. Bourne became superhuman and was able to shake off explosions and driving cars off parking ramps, as well as possessing the ability to walk into a CIA office unnoticed. The one really clever thing about the film was the tricky placement of the flashback to the end of part 2.

    Then again, I count myself among those weirdos who like the first one best.

  70. In Bourne’s defense, he was supposed to be amped up to (virtual) superhuman status; his stumble-bumbling around in B1 was due to amnesia plus a basic rejection of everything he had been training to do the past few years. Once he solidly commits to action, he’s competent at the level they were hoping he’d be.

    Remember, in B1 everyone’s going oh bleep it’s Bourne we’re all gonna die call in everyone (what do you mean boss, I MEAN EVVVVERRRRYOONNNNNEEEE!! {g}). In effect he was supposed to be the transition to the new Blackbriar system. But due to his psychological problems he rarely gets to show why they were so scared of him. In B2 and B3, his focus is clearer, and he gets to show it. B4 now needs to give him a purpose beyond revenge/survival.

    (Which is not to say that the series doesn’t have its moments of goofy handwaving as to how he does things–Frank’s example of sneaking into CIA headquarters with minimal trouble and in minimal time is a good gripe. I tend to agree that B3 suffered from a feeling of trying too hard to repeat B2 plus an anticlimactic ending.)

    Meanwhile, there was a critic at… Rotten Tomato?? I can’t recall, but he (I think he was a he) had never seen a single Bond film and so launched a series of reviews of all of them preparatory to seeing QoS. I was interested to see that he largely agreed with me in judging most Bond films to be sub-par entertainment compared to the all the films of the Brosnan years (plus Craig.) DrNo, Russia and Majesty’s held up best, and Maj was a distant third. Say what you want about Brosnan’s films, but they put their budget up on the screen in ways that far surpass what was done before (even with blatantly stupid things like a helicopter that acts purely like a big chopper blade). Sure, there are plenty of _elements_ from previous Bond movies that I still like, and like most people here I grew up on the pre-Dalton days. But the cold sober fact is that I own the full Brosnan run (plus Craig), and don’t own any of the others, and that’s because I’ll watch the Brosnan (+ Craig) runs about once a year whereas I would rarely watch the earlier films for entertainment purposes. They’re far more painful for me to watch (when I occasionally catch them on TV) than any of the Brosnan+ films.

    Also, Bruce Lee, yeah! {g} {sad attempt at reverting to original topic shall be achieved next post}

  71. So anyway: is it time to reconsider Bruce’s relative contributions to the films of cinema?

    I don’t mean to take anything away from him, including the special place he had (and so will always have) in helping break open the market for HK action in North America (and related territories). But has he not seriously been surpassed by now in various ways? Chan, Jet, maybe even Jaa?–aren’t there serious ways in which their bodies of work now exceed Lee’s in types of various quality?

  72. Jareth Cutestory

    April 20th, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Paul: I agree with you that the world probably doesn’t need any more Bond films, but I disagree that there should be more Bourne. I think Bourne would become just as silly as Bond if it was allowed to go on too long. Three films is all I need.

    However, if they cast Idris Elba as Bond, I’d watch that.

  73. Good essay question, Sabreman. I think in terms of stunts and choreography there’s no arguing that the Bruce Lee movies have been topped. But (unfortunately) Bruce has this James Dean thing going for him, because he didn’t get to make very many movies where he was in control and then died in top form. So what could be argued is whether anyone has made such an impression and body of work in a fell swoop like that – I don’t think so, because Li and especially Chan developed over many years and many movies before they became what it is we love about them.

    Maybe Jaa has a shot, but that brings up another question about their screen persona. Jaa is an amazing fighter, stuntman and choroegrapher, but so far his acting and the character he plays are not approaching Bruce. Maybe that’s not important to most people, I don’t know. But it’s one reason Bruce Lee’s still so worshipped.

  74. 1971 is my birthyear. It’s great to be reminded of how many really cool and good movies were made or released that year. There’s a great satisfaction for me that many great movies and I share the same year we first saw the light of the sun and came to existance.

  75. RRA, that car was a Lotus Esprit, it’s a legend, and it’s still a very cool looking car even today. Back them it’s design was so advanced, it looked like a spaceship. It was as fast too.

  76. Vern, true about the personality/charisma thing. It’s a long thread, but didn’t someone above here put it that way, too?–that he watches Bruce Lee movies when he wants to watch Bruce Lee?

    I do think people watch Chan movies to watch Jackie Chan (it’s practically the only reason why some of his later American films exist), but obviously it isn’t for the same type of charisma Lee had. And yeah, I can’t think of anyone who watches Jaa’s films for the experience of watching Tony Jaa’s personality. Chow Yun Fat kind of has that, but not at the same intensity. (I really can’t think of many actors who exuded the same amount of intensity, Chinese or otherwise. It might be a side-effect of Lee focusing on pure direct efficiency in his martial art style. Or maybe his personality came first and thus he created that synergistic fight style.)

  77. Maybe the best way to put it is that Lee has the intensity of some anime characters, but as a real-life human being. And this translates over to his fighting style, too (regardless of the chicken/egg question.)

  78. I’m sure someone pointed this out before, because it’s pretty obvious but Bruce Lee fights are kind of like Steven Seagal fights. Brutal, short and Lee/Seagal never really get touched.

  79. Great review. I am an admirer of Lee because of his philosophy and talent. When you take into consideration the culture barrier, his talent as a martial artist (which at the time was unmatched) you realize how far ahead he was in the game. His movies have a lot of symbols that people don’t catch unless they read his books and understand his Chinese philosophy.

    Mostly, I enjoy watching his movies for the “That is so damn cool” moments, in which there were many. I do agree…the dog scene was a little weird. I’m thinking they needed to kill time.

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