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XXX 1/2 "GoldenEye," with Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen. Directed by Martin Campbell, from a script by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. Alderwood 7, Bella Bottega 7, Crossroads, Everett 1-3, Factoria, Issaquah 9, Kent, Kirkland Parkplace, Mountlake 9, Oak Tree, Puyallup, SeaTac Mall, Southcenter, Uptown. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised because of violence, mature situations.
The new James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, has a tougher task than the previous 007s: He has to save the movie franchise, not just the world. With a big assist from director Martin Campbell ("No Escape"), Brosnan completes his assignment with stellar results.
After a six-year absence from movie screens because of a rights battle, the 17th "official" Bond (19th if you count "Casino Royale" and "Never Say Never Again") is packed with every traditional Bond element. The Aston Martin is here, as is the vodka martini, the daffy American agent (Joe Don Baker), the quick trek through a casino.
Another Bond tradition, the pre-title action sequence, is red-hot in "GoldenEye." It's so good that if you get to the box office too late to catch it, you should wait for the next showing.
The intricate plot points aren't particularly necessary - this isn't a Tom Clancy novel. Agents of the Russian kingpin Trevelyan (Sean Bean) hijack a dormant Soviet secret weapon capable of mass destruction. The trigger device, dubbed GoldenEye, is stolen from a Russian complex. Bond's off to St. Petersburg to destroy the supervillain and find a witness (Izabella Scorupco). Along the way he bumps into Russian officials and even an old enemy (Robbie Coltrane).
The centerpiece is a sensational, boisterous chase through the streets of St. Petersburg and the backlot of the newly created Leavesden Studios. It ends with a bang as do most of the fun-but-implausible sequences in this 130-minute action extravaganza.
Line by line, explosion by explosion, Brosnan's right there, born to play the part. Perhaps by design, he captures a bit from each predecessor - the panache of Sean Connery, the cheeky humor of Roger Moore, the serious grit of Timothy Dalton.
Unfairly punished for being the politically correct Bond, Dalton was tagged as too pale for the series. But here the producers allow 007 to use his license to kill readily. He's also seducing everyone in a skirt. The new M, Dame Judi Dench (an inspired choice), even lays a whopper on James, calling him "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur." Luckily, dinosaurs are making a comeback.
As the Russian extra-cute programmer/witness, Swedish model Scorupco makes the traditional impression of a Bond Girl - pleasant but forgettable.
On the other hand, Famke Janssen has great fun being the bad girl. As Russian soldier Xenia Onatopp, Janssen gives us a true Bond classic. Draped in black vinyl suits, Janssen has all the fun - smoking cigars, dueling Bond on a winding road and zealfully polishing off a whole room with a machine gun. To top that, Onatopp has a bizarre method for killing her targets. She overshadows the evil Russian general (a deft Gottfried John) and even Trevelyan.
The series may never recover from the fantasy plots that peaked during Moore's stint. What powers the series now is the techno-wow of big sets, big stunts and big explosions.
Unless the producers show the guts to veer away from the routine - as in George Lazenby's dark chapter, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - each new film will have a built-in predictability. Even now, it prevents a top installment like "GoldenEye" from being one of the great spy thrillers of cinema. It is, though, one great Bond.