He still takes his martinis shaken not stirred, gets his gadgets from crusty old Q, and destroys the movie’s most elaborate set to save the world. But is the archetype for the modern action hero now just another superbrute?

Tomorrow Never Dies, the newest 007 adventure to hit video, is the fastest, loudest Bond ever. Where Golden Eye updated the formula, this film streamlines it, maybe too much. Trying to keep pace in the John Woo age, director Roger Spottiswoode has sacrificed some of the style that makes Bond Bond. Racing to foil the nuclear-bombing plot of yet another megalomaniac, Pierce Brosnan’s 007 skips many of the usual formalities: He never gets near a gaming table, and his only seduction scene is a bittersweet reunion with an old flame (Teri Hatcher). He’s Bond as generic action hero — less intense than Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible, less obsessed than John Travolta in Face/Off, and less cavalier than your dad’s James Bond. True, Brosnan blithely segues between breakneck sequences, but his stunt double seems to get equal screen time.

Except for a nifty, remote-control car chase, even the action seems less Bond specific. A rooftop motorcycle escape looks like something from Jackie Chan’s Supercop, as does Bond girl (former Chan girl) Michelle Yeoh’s fight scene. At times, Brosnan seems Schwarzeneggeresque, mowing down extras with automatic weapons. The old Bond did it with deadly aim: The new one does it with ’90s overkill. So while 007 can still outfight three thugs without mussing his tux, for real Bond style check out Goldfinger or Thunderball, when the man was a hero ahead of his time. Now he’s working hard just to keep up with the competition. More work and less play makes James a duller boy.

Tomorrow Never Dies
  • Movie
  • 119 minutes