His performance as British secret service agent James Bond in the new-to-video Goldeneye puts Pierce Brosnan right up there with the original and best-loved movie 007, Sean Connery. Despite reading lines like ”Shaken, not stirred” a bit too self-consciously, Brosnan imbues the character with the neat mix of suavity and sadism that made Connery such a kick to watch.
Brosnan came into the Bond franchise with two things going for him: One, he’s a skilled, if underrated, actor; and two, he’s had some practice for the role (okay, that he’s incredibly good-looking didn’t hurt). Though he essayed a witty rendition of Bond on the ’80s TV series Remington Steele, his subsequent roles in big-budget Hollywood features have been mostly Inappropriate Boyfriends (he held up well as Robin Williams’ foil in 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire and as Warren Beatty’s rival in 1994’s Love Affair). A look into some obscure corners of his career, however — at such movies as The Fourth Protocol, Detonator, and Live Wire — reveals that Brosnan brought more espionage experience to the Bond role than any of his predecessors.
Having paid his action dues while almost nobody was looking, Brosnan still seems fresh in his Bond debut. Goldeneye screenwriters Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein’s jokey variations on an almost-tired formula elicit affection rather than eye rolling. And while villainess Xenia Onatopp’s name and preferred method of murder (she crushes men to death with her thighs) are over-the-top, the wraith-pale Famke Janssen almost sells the character’s shtick. The rest is exactly what we expect from a good Bond film: state-of-the-art stunt work, a brouhaha about weapons systems in space, the now commonplace renegade Russian general, and gorgeous, super-competent female sidekicks. If those in charge of the Bond franchise aren’t going to take any chances, such as hiring a real director — as Connery himself recently suggested — instead of a second-tier suspense specialist (Martin Campbell also made Criminal Law and No Escape), they could do worse than keep Brosnan around. He puts a much needed glint in Goldeneye.