Movie fans know all too well that you have to wade through a lot of disappointment to find the good stuff. And it’s not always some binary pile-sorting of "good movies" and "bad movies"; sometimes there’s quality material smack in the middle of the muck. Say Something Nice is dedicated to those gems - memorable, standout, even great moments from movies that...well, aren’t.
Recently I was tasked with ranking all of the Bond movies, and I put Tomorrow Never Dies at 24th out of 25 entries. I stand by that call - it’s dreary and dull, a rote entry whose age has not quite ripened it into the fun time capsules that many of its predecessors have become. It’s just this pile of late ‘90s mush that does nothing to distinguish itself. (It almost had a classic theme song by k.d. Lang, but her song was stuck onto the end credits to make way for Sheryl Crow in ill-fitting Bond diva drag.) Pierce Brosnan himself has said on camera that he can’t tell his second, third, and fourth Bond movies apart in his memory. Damn.
But Tomorrow Never Dies has one glimmer of greatness, a brief stretch that hints at a weird, arch space the franchise could have gone more often, and didn't. I’m going to show it to you, and then we’re going to talk about it.
Vincent Schiavelli's Dr. Kaufman is very much what the ‘90s Bond era needed more of, harkening back to the SPECTRE weirdos in From Russia With Love. He’s cruel, fussy, and hilarious. Dr. Kaufman waltzes into this movie out of a more colorful universe, and in one three-minute scene gives the 18th Bond film a reason to exist. If only Brosnan's run - heck, if only Timothy Dalton's and Daniel Craig's runs - had more of this kinky flavor.
The hand-wringers who couldn’t get past the casual killing of Severine in Skyfall, take note: the above scene plays over the freshly killed corpse of Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), a former flame whom Bond inadvertently got murdered. He seems solemn enough here, but seconds later the scene is followed by a parking garage chase in which 007 lies in the backseat, giggling with delight as he operates his Q-branch issued BMW via remote control, his ex-lover’s body not yet stiff with rigor mortis. People want to talk shit on the current Bond for being problematic, but Tomorrow Never Dies has 007 treating the death of a lover (a legit lover with a shared past, not just some fling) more flippantly than Connery, Moore, or Dalton ever did, and definitely more than Craig ever has.