Vern hearts Daniel Craig and CASINO ROYALE... read his love letter here!!!
Published at: Nov. 17, 2006, 7:22 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here to quickly introduce Vern's review of CASINO ROYALE... and his admission of the huge mancrush he has for Daniel Craig. I saw the movie last night myself and you can add my name onto the "loved it" lists... Eva Green is the pretty and Daniel Craig could kill Cancer. Good stuff... but you didn't click on this headline to hear me talk. Here's the main man, Vern!
I liked CASINO ROYALE too. (review ends here if you're one of those dicks who always complains that my reviews are too long)
This is coming from the perspective of a non-James Bond fan. People are always trying to get me to watch them, especially my buds Paul and Tom at Her Majesty's Secret Servant, who got me to review a couple for them a while back. I can understand the appeal, I like jetpacks as much as the next guy, but these movies are not really my thing. And to me the Pierce Brosnans quickly turn into snoozefests where you only perk up to groan at the worse-than-Schwarzenegger punmanship. The ridiculous action scenes I can get into (gotta love that GOLDENEYE opening) and the character names (how could Denise Richards playing a scientist named Dr. Christmas Jones not be fun? well, they pulled it off). But to me it's mostly the same old shit over and over again with an indestructible super stud doing magical deeds and screwing beautiful women and they lust after him so much they put up with his painful sense of humor. And we're supposed to like this guy. Well, I don't.
So when they had that controversy going about the casting of Daniel Craig I had to laugh. Was that a made up story or were there really James Bond fans pissing their pants over the color of his hair? It's not like it's pink or nothin, blond is a perfectly reasonable color of hair for a secret agent. I don't have any inside info but according to my research it is very possible that a blond man could be a secret agent in some countries. Well shit, even if it WAS pink, I had no interest in another god damn James Bond movie. I wasn't gonna see another Pierce Brosnan with another clunky title to mix up with the other ones (I can only keep them straight as The One With Michelle Yeoh, The One With Halle Berry, etc.). They supposedly wanted a fresh start but they got the writers of the last couple, the director of GOLDENEYE, they actually turned down Tarantino wanting to adapt this particular book and then gave it to their usual guys so that bridge would be permanently burned.
But then they got Daniel Craig. I haven't even seen LAYER CAKE, but he was definitely 2005 best supporting badass for MUNICH. They got Eric Bana in his best role since CHOPPER and this guy still steals the movie. When Bond-nerds (who, it turns out, exist) said they were gonna boycott I figured no big deal, the studio'll be trading their money for money from people like me who didn't go to the other ones.
And that's what this is I think, this is more like the James Bond movie for people who don't like that other shit. I don't think it's Pierce Brosnan's fault, but Daniel Craig, and especially Daniel Craig in this story, is a WAY more interesting character in my opinion. He's not a suave super-being, he's a regular fuckin badass. He's a man's man. You believe this guy can fight. At some points early on I was thinking fuck Bond, I want this guy to play Parker. This guy can handle himself. And he can be arrogant and have it come across as part of his game. Brosnan just seemed like a stuck up prick.
Of course, he has good reasons to be cocky. I think part of why I don't get into Bond is because he has too much at his disposal. Any gadget he wants, any woman he wants, any law of physics he chooses to defy, no problem. Money is no object, laws are no obstacle, the government's got his back, and if he needs to he can fly around the earth really fast to go back in time. I'm more of a John McClane man. I want to see an underdog scrapping, one guy overcoming the odds. In a world where whatever whatever, only one man can etc. etc. Well, this James Bond is a little closer to that type of character. He's just become "007" in the opening scene. Nobody expects him to live long. His boss D.J. Dench (best known for CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK) thinks he's a fuckup, and he actually has to break into her house and computer files to get the information he needs. The only high-tech gadgets he gets to use are for medical purposes. He does drive the fancy Aston Martin, but only after winning it in a poker game. Before that he drives a Ford. (I wish it was a junker with Bondo all over it, like a Ride that has yet to be Pimped, but this will do.)
Yes, this is a starting out story. Apparently it is based on the first James Bond book by Ian Fleming, which must've been really ahead of its time considering all the uses of cell phones and the reference to 9-11. It's nice because it's a good thriller but not in that same James Bond template we're so used to. There is no big doomsday plot. The main part of his mission is just to win a poker game. Apparently this is a compromise from the original novel, where it was a more obscure card game I never heard of. I agree that it's lame to change it, but oh well. At least they didn't switch it to Uno. Or Trivial Pursuits '80s Edition.
There is alot of other stuff going on, which makes the long poker game somehow suspenseful. It's funny to hear the audience gasp when the cards are laid down, as if they really got those hands. It's a movie, people, of course somebody got an ace. One thing I can't figure out though is why only Bond or eye-damaged-asthmatic-villain-guy ever win. What about all these other dudes? Jeffrey Wright (the new Joe Don Baker)? Overweight guy? Asian guy? Somebody else should win occasionally. It's not fair.
You might've heard Paul Haggis is one of the three credited writers. I have done my fair share of Haggis-bashing, though not as much as Moriarty (I liked MILLION DOLLAR BABY). But fair is fair, this movie is not Haggish. There are no big embarrassing speeches. In fact, for the first 2/3 or so of the movie they do a great job of avoiding unnecessary dialogue, instead explaining everything visually. Especially fun is Bond chasing a bomb-maker played by Sebastien Foucan (who gets a special credit for "free running stunts"). This is cool because it takes advantage of the "free running" or "parkour" or "climbing and jumping on shit" made popular in DISTRICT B-13 but originally seen in YAMAKASI (different style that includes flips) and CREMASTER 3 (style where he has a napkin in his mouth). It's just a long, thrilling chase, no talking, lots of hurting. You gotta figure though that neither Bond or this bomb-maker are all that smart. Because first of all, the guy runs up a crane. Second of all, Bond chases him up the crane. But what did either of them think he was gonna do when he got to the top of the crane? That is exactly the place you don't run when you're getting chased. How many poor bastards have, for whatever fucked up reason, wound up stuck on top of a crane or an electric tower or some place like that, and then the fire department has to get them down like a cat stuck in a tree in a movie? In Seattle this happens about once a year - one year it was a topless fire swallower protesting something or other, this year I think it was a drunk guy waving a flag on the 4th of July. What usually happens, they get stuck. It would've been funny to see Bond just have to wait for the guy to come down. But I guess he knew what was coming.
I got the impression some of the audience was laughing incredulously at some of these jumps, like it was just too ridiculous. But I think most of them were real! Sure, most of the stuff on the cranes is obviously fake, but there's some other ones that are the real deal, which is nice for this series. Grounds it in reality a little bit.
Of course they're not always running and jumping, they do occasionally stop to have characters talk to each other. Since they're trying to reinvent the series though, this is dangerous. The director, Martin Campbell, also did GOLDENEYE, where the writers seemed way too concerned with justifying the existence of super spies after the Cold War. That got tiresome, so I guess there's the silver lining in the current state of the world: less self-conscious dialogue in James Bond movies. The terrorists have already won. No explanations needed, just mention that the bad guys are terrorists and you're set. There's even one reference to 9-11 and it surprised me - they mention those infamous stock transactions by the anonymous people who bet against the right airlines right before 9-11. That's a weird mystery I never thought would be mentioned in a James Bond movie. (I hope the next one mentions that they never caught the anthrax killer.) There's also a sexually humiliating torture scene that reminds one of Abu Ghraib (or maybe HOSTEL). Unfortunately the villain mentions that he doesn't like to do big complicated tortures, a rare case of overly self-conscious "see, this is different from those old James Bond movies" dialogue. And of course they gotta have nods to the various Bond trademarks (shaken not stirred, all that shit) but it mostly works and at least one is put in a context that makes it completely badass.
Of course you got characters over-explaining the card game, and other things going on late in the movie. But it's not too bad and I don't blame Haggis. There are some corny lines, but only a small fraction of the amount you'd expect in a Brosnan. I don't know what to make of that "perfectly formed ass" line you saw in the trailers. Somebody asked me how she knew if he had a perfectly formed ass anyway, because he's sitting down in this scene. I figure it was probaly in his file, though.
The ass-admirer is played by Eva Green. She's a great Bond girl because she's got the super-hotness and what not but she seems more human than the others. Toward the end there is suddenly a surprisingly long romance portion of the movie that seems a little forced at first, but by the time it comes to its inevitable bad turn (spoiler, if you've never seen a movie before or heard a story) you actually give a shit or two for her and, as far as these things go, it's pretty moving. But if you don't want an actual character for the Bond girl don't worry, there's another girl who is introduced in a bikini riding a horse on the beach. So there's something for everybody.
The one thing I didn't understand about Eva Green is what her name was supposed to mean. Vesper Lynd? That's not a sex act, is it? Her name should've been Ibetta Rentthedreamersnow.
So there's alot of reasons why I dug this movie more than other James Bonds, but what it all comes down to is the thing that got me interested in the first place, Daniel Craig. To my ignorant eyes he's the best Bond hands down. He's as cool as Brosnan, as manly as Connery, but more complicated than any of them. He has more going on behind his eyes. His emotions are repressed, which means he actually has emotions. He's this cold-hearted bastard but then he does something nice to somebody and you realize there is something close to three dimensions here. AND he knows how to chase a guy up a crane. It's good stuff.
I guarantee you most of those skeptics will be won over as soon as they see the movie. If you want them to go in and CGI some brown hair on him I'm sure they could do that for the DVD, but I bet you'll realize it's not needed. The only downside is he'll probaly get stuck doing mostly James Bond for years and years, and we'll miss out on seeing him in other roles. But that's okay, I'll watch these.
VERN WILL RETURN