After 12 years and seven films the Roger Moore era of James Bond comes to a close with A View to a Kill: a film that, from the moment it was released, has been mocked, pilloried, and thrown under a freight train of critical disdain. The thing is, all of that is largely fair and A View to a Kill is also a largely fun Bond experience that, at the end of the day, may wind up being my 3rd favorite of Moore’s films.
A View to a Kill is not a good movie. We should get that out of the way right away. If it’s not Roger Moore’s worst performance as James Bond, it’s dang close. Moore is so clearly done with this character and largely goes through the motions and delivers a listless and bland performance. In a film that feels to be running on fumes at times, Moore in particular is guilty of just coasting through this thing.
It’s made worse by the fact that Roger Moore is just a couple years shy of 60 here and has clearly had some kind of cosmetic work done between Octopussy and A View to a Kill, leaving his appearance looking quite jarring from the prior film. The fact that the film decides to not explore what a more mature Bond could be like at all only serves to further undercut Moore here. Instead the film tries to pretend and act like Moore is still in his 30’s and the results are largely a mess.
None of this is helped by Tanya Roberts playing the main love interest of James in the movie. Easily decades younger than Roger Moore (Moore infamously said he knew it was time to leave the role when he found out he was older then Roberts’ mother), Roberts’ Stacey Sutton just helps to further point out how weary and exhausted Moore has gotten here. And while Roberts is a talented actress, this movie gives her virtually nothing to do and she is maybe the most stereotypical damsel in distress of the entire series run.
So with both James and his main love interest performing so poorly what is there to hang your hat on here? Well, for a rare time in the Roger Moore era: the villains. Christopher Walken as Max Zorin and Grace Jones as May Day are iconic Bond villains and help to lift this movie so much. To quote my That Bond Show co-host, “they know what kind of movie they are in” and just seem to be having a blast here.
Walken in particular is a triumph throughout this movie, just chewing up scenes and having a ball playing an utterly unhinged genius baddie. Smirking, laughing like the Joker, and just generally being an agent of chaos, Walken’s Zorin is perhaps the strongest Bond villain of Moore’s entire run and, along with Scaramanaga, one who honestly stands with the great Bond villains that define so much of the series.
In Grace Jones’ May Day, Zorin is given a wonderful henchwoman who delivers a bizarre and stilted performance that actually seems to work with the physicality of Grace Jones so well. Together they are an outlandish and over the top pair, the scene of the two of them laughing together on a boat is one of the campiest moments in the entire series, yet it works. They know what movie they are in to great effect and seem to be having a ball.
That’s the thing about A View to a Kill; it isn’t really a good movie, but it has a charm and a goofy fun that’s been missing from a lot of Roger Moore’s other films. It at no point takes itself too seriously and that’s too its benefit. It is utterly mid-tier Bond and rejoices in that fact instead of trying to be something more. Moore is clearly over the hill and largely done with playing this character at this point and Tanya Roberts is given nothing to do in this movie, but a fun and scene-stealing Walken and Jones make up for it and the film’s pace keep you bobbing along at a quick enough speed that you are onto something fun soon enough. 6.5/10
The Paris chase sequence is the entire movie in a nutshell. A horribly-doubled James Bond (I’m not sure Roger Moore was even on location in Paris judging by all the stunt men we see on screen) engages in a ridiculous but fun pursuit of Jones through the city with great practical stunts and the silly car that slowly breaks apart. The sequence culminates with Bond jumping on a wedding cake and Jones and Walken laughing like goons in a getaway boat.
Is it good? I don’t know. But it’s campy, and absurd, and ultimately more fun than not.
Christopher Walken is of course great and seems to be having a great time just being this unhinged charming character. He mugs for the camera, has a perpetual smirk on his face, and just chews through his various scenes. He is balanced by the truly bizarre and weird performance of Grace Jones as May Day who, while never particularly good at the acting part of the role, is almost stronger because of it.
A weird, wonky, camp performance by the two and a surprisingly dark main villain in Zorin provide so many of the best moments of A View to a Kill. I give them an 8/10.
We still mostly hate gadgets at this point in the Bond era, but shoutout to Roger Moore’s massive see-through wall sunglasses and Q’s obligatory 80’s robot. 5/10
I think A View to a Kill is dumb fun. Whether or not it is good is sorta besides the point. This is a Bond film of two extremes. So many elements seem to be exhausted and spent. Roger Moore, Lois Maxwell, Robert Brown, and more behind the scenes are just past their best, yet countering this is the striking presence and youthfulness of Walken and Jones who jolt this movie with energy every time they appear. The film thus settles into this odd mix but is mostly just fun and goofy all the way through.
Unquestionably A View to a Kill isn’t a top 10 Bond flick, but it is probably my favorite Moore era Bond film after Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me. In many ways its closest parallel might be the Connery film Diamonds are Forever. I enjoy it and I think it’s fun so it gets a 7/10 for me.