Apr 16, 2014

Review: Live and Let Die (1973)

Guy Hamilton directed Live and Let Die, his third outing as director of a James Bond film. He's famous for bringing what is known as the best of all Bonds, Goldfinger. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman are for sure looking to repeat that success with the same team but a key component is gone. Without Sean Connery, we're introduced to Roger Moore playing the crucial role of 007.

It's a low-key introduction. Instead of On Her Majesty's Secret Service that hid George Lazenby's face for as long as possible to build anticipation of his reveal or Diamonds Are Forever playing the same trick as its predecessor, Roger Moore is shown pretty much right away. With an Italian babe in his bed of course. It's an intimate introduction because we actually see Bond's house for the first time. Pretty nice digs, that's for sure.

Live and Let Die is a quieter film than previous Bond films because of its villain not seeking to rule to world with some crazy plot. No, Dr. Kananga just wants to ship a whole bunch of heroin into the US and take over the market. He does however use some fantastical help from his tarot card reader assistant so that's also something pretty different from other Bond movies. There's never been any sort of element of magic in previous movies.

Bond's mission begins by trying to find out what happened to three dead agents. It's an intriguing start and like the previous Diamonds Are Forever, James travels to several US locations. Clearly, Live and Let Die borrows a lot from blaxploitation movies which as an era began in the early 70's. What's also pretty risqué for the time is James hooking up with an African-American love interest. Definite props for pushing the envelope in this case.

Action scenes are simple but very enjoyable. This is large in part because there's no camera trickery or CGI in any of the chases. There's also a speedboat chase that's really fun and shows off some amazing stunts. What's interesting to me is that during this boat chase we actually get shown some local police intervention. Think of all the action movies you've ever seen. How many of them actually involve the police? Probably too few which doesn't make sense because these scenes last at least 10 minutes which should give the police some time to respond if it's in a large city.

Sheriff J.W. Pepper is one of these responding officers during the boat chase and he's ridiculous as he is disgusting. He's probably the most stereotypical Louisiana sheriff you could ever imagine with his tobacco chewing and calling everyone "boy."  There's maybe a bit too much screen time given to him but he is pretty funny.

Roger Moore overall as James Bond is perfectly adequate. Not just anyone can be 007 and I think Moore carries himself well. He has charisma and charm to spare although he isn't as physically imposing as Sean Connery is. He gets good marks in my book for sure.

Live and Let Die has a great score composed by George Martin who hooked Paul McCartney along for the ride to do the title song. I'm a huge fan of John Barry's James Bond score but LaLD's music is a nice change. Roger Moore is successfully introduced and the action is well choreographed and executed. In all, Live and Let Die is a winner as far as Bond movies go.

7/10