Never Say Never Again (1983)

neversayFor legal reasons so tangled and tortured, they could make a book out of the copyright fight (and did, with Robert Sellers’ The Battle for Bond, recommended), Never Say Never Again is not considered part of the 007 canon, despite marking the return of Sean Connery to his iconic role after a 12-year absence.

Last seen doing Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond is no longer the glistening gem that Britain’s MI6 requires of its secret agents, so he is shuttered off to a health club to adhere to a strict regimen of calories, chiropractic and colonics. I’d say this is the first sign that something about this adventure is a bit “off,” but it’s actually the third; first is the franchise’s signature gun-barrel POV sequence being MIA, while the second is Lani Hall’s rightly forgotten theme song, thoroughly unmemorable except for the cloying presence of cowbell.

neversay1Back in shape enough, Bond is thrown into a new mission as SPECTRE — headed by pussy-petting Blofeld (Max von Sydow, Flash Gordon) — hatches a scheme to steal two thermonuclear warheads from the U.S. Air Force, which it achieves by getting a USAF captain (Gavan O’Herlihy, Superman III) hooked on smack and then replacing his right eye with a replica of the American president’s. The plan is so crazy, it just … might … work …

In cahoots with Blofeld are the exotic and explosive Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera, Condorman), who at one point wears what looks like an ensemble of Hefty bags and the see-through plastic tarp you put down before painting, and Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer, Oscar nominee for Out of Africa), who is as slimy as he his wealthy. His girlfriend, Domino (Kim Basinger, in only her third film), is the sister of the USAF patsy, but really she’s around so Bond can have a fourth woman to fuck within two hours’ time.

Irvin Kershner’s follow-up to directing The Empire Strikes Back, this “unofficial” Bond entry is — again with the pesky laws! — technically a remake of 1965’s Thunderball, but doesn’t quite feel like it until the underwater sequences come into play. Then, shark excepted, Never Say Never Again becomes every bit of a plodding slog as that official fourth 007 film. Because this is the ’80s, Kershner’s take includes a scene built entirely on a video-game challenge between Bond and Largo, as well as a rather uncomfortable bit that more or less sees Domino being butt-molested for laughs, as our suave spy poses as a masseur. For pure action of a nonsexual nature, only the gadgetry-enhanced motorcycle chase wrings the kind of thrills we expect from 007 set pieces.

As if to acknowledge to the audience that Never Say Never Again is an overstuffed and undercooked turkey, Connery closes his reign in Her Majesty’s secret service by breaking the fourth wall to wink directly at us. Its meaning is unmistakable: “You’ve been had, but I made some serious bank.” At the time, nobody did Bond better, but never had Connery done it so flaccidly. —Rod Lott

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One Response to “Never Say Never Again (1983)”

  • Doug Says:

    “His girlfriend, Domino (Kim Basinger, in only her third film), is the brother of the USAF patsy…”
    Domino is played by Caitlyn Jenner?

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