The first Bond film I’m reviewing this month was the first Bond movie I ever saw. So, it might explain my love for Roger Moore. Yes, Sean Connery is the best Bond. Yes, Moore was more punchline than punch. But as a kid, he was my introduction into the world of Bond. And the world of The Man With The Golden Gun was a world that shattered any preconceived notions I had for a good guy versus bad guy film.
James Bond isn’t some “golly-gee” farm-boy from Smallville who does whats right no matter what. James Bond isn’t some selfless trust fund baby who strikes fear in the hearts of criminals when night falls. James Bond isn’t some nerdy photographer with superpowers who is entirely hung up on responsibility. James Bond is actually…well…an asshole. Hell! He’s somewhat of a misogynistic asshole. Double Hell! He’s somewhat of a cold blooded murdering misogynistic asshole. James Bond doesn’t wear a mask to protect the people he cares about. He doesn’t use an alias to protect the government he works for. He doesn’t fight fair. He doesn’t follow orders. He might technically be the worst spy on paper ever. And we love him for it. He’s the longest running antihero in cinema history. Bond does things that we want to do, but our better natures won’t allow us to. And he does them with STYLE.
The Man With The Golden Gun, or Bond IX, is about 007 tracking down and killing the world’s deadliest assassin before he returns the favor in kind. An assassin that uses a golden gun. Um…that’s it. Sure, there is a solar energy subplot tossed in there, but its more sub than plot. The film can be summed up in caveman terms. Bond hunt bad guy. Bond find bad guy. Bond kill bad guy. It is such a simple and badass premise, its a wonder why Hollywood action films nowadays, other than Dredd 3D & The Raid, overcomplicate themselves. The Man With The Golden Gun sets up a fight between two pitbulls and lets them duke it out in the final act.
A Bond film is usually measured by three primary factors. The Bond girls, the Bond gadgets, and the Bond villains. Let me start with the girls. Unlike our misogynistic hero, I like it when Bond’s femme fatales have equal footing with him. Sadly, in The Man With The Golden Gun, the Bond girls are lacking in any type of equality. They fall into archetypes used many times before and after this film. The reluctant mistress of the villain and the admiring rookie agent. However, they serve as little else than a subservient pawn piece for Bond to move around. Maud Adams’s character of Andrea Anders pales in comparison to the character of Octopussy, who she played years later. Mary Goodnight is literally described as the “astoundingly dumb blonde British agent”. So you know what you’re getting there. You can attribute the minimized Bond girl personality to either the era or the fact they wanted to focus more on the villain. However, it becomes a glaring weakness of the film.
As far as the gadgets go, they are few and far between in this film. The only one of any real importance is the infamous golden gun. Again, when I was a kid, nothing was cooler than Christopher Lee assembling his golden gun and blowing someone away. Being older now, I can see how people can see it as goofy. However, you have to respect the elegance and simplicity of the idea.
The Man With The Golden Gun has arguably the greatest Bond villain of all time in Francisco Scaramanga. He is played superbly by the always devious Christopher Lee. A cousin of Bond scribe Ian Fleming. Allow me to put his awesomeness in the proper perspective. For recreation…RECREATION MIND YOU…Scaramanga practices killing people by…KILLING PEOPLE! He makes arrangements for their arrival to his home, disarms himself, pays them…TO TRY AND KILL HIM…then beats them to the punch. He’s so cool, the cold open of the film is entirely dedicated to him. He has skill. He has STYLE. He has a third nipple. Uh…yeah…he has a third nipple…but who cares?! He more than holds his own with Bond. To this day, I measure all Bond villains to him. And Nick Nack. Ohhhhhh Nick Nack. It takes balls to have a henchman in a Bond film be a dwarf. Herve Villechaize’s great performance propelled Nick Nack into becoming one of the most iconic Bond characters of all time. There wouldn’t be a Mini-Me without a Nick Nack.
In the lexicon of Bond, The Man With The Golden Gun always stands out near the top. Not because it is the best film. Its not. It stands out because it possesses so many of the STYLISH elements of the James Bond franchise. Put on a tux…order a martini(You know how)…sing along with Lulu…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.