Tomorrow Never Dies
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce, Teri Hatcher, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn. (1997, PG-13, 119 min.)
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Dec. 19, 1997
Spottiswoode, current altar boy for the revered 007 movie franchise, has boldly gambled on saving the redundancy-mired series by reinventing one of its most sacred elements: the Bond Girl. Michelle Yeoh, familiar to Hong Kong movie fans as the diminutive, razor-wire action goddess from the Heroic Trio and Police Story series, is radically unlike any of the pillowy vinyl love dolls who've preceded her in this role. But goodgodalmighty is she a welcome change! As Chinese Col. Wai Lin, Bond's uneasy collaborator in his latest world-saving adventure, she becomes what none of his other female costars have been: a true sidekick and rival, not just a receptacle for his gin- and vermouth-infused bodily fluids. Bond (Brosnan) hooks up with Wai while pursuing a power-mad media baron named Elliot Carver (Pryce) who's trying to start a war between China and the Western alliance. Using his foreknowledge of the events, Carver (a chimerical blend of Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates) plans to dominate the breaking story with his worldwide satellite news network. That's right; in our post-Cold War era, “the media” is now a global menace beside which the supervillains of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. are lowly bush leaguers. Before Yeoh's arrival on the scene, Tomorrow cruises on languid autopilot, breezing past the inevitable touchstones of exotic opening titles, socko action intro, Q's new gadgets, etc. It's far from unenjoyable, but the dank shroud of the overfamiliar lies heavy over all, kind of like watching an Elvis concert circa 1976. Brosnan, visually perfect as he is for the role, can't break through the gathering ennui alone. Though he's able to register a few emotions previous Bonds couldn't or wouldn't (boyish glee for one), he lacks a certain vital spark. He's just a bit too debonair, I guess I'm saying. Almost as troubling -- and this is said in total deference to the virility of spy cinema's ultimate mack daddy character -- he sometimes runs like a girl in those slick-soled Italian shoes of his. Yeoh changes the whole dynamic, though. With her electrifying physicality, no-bull persona, and athletic eroticism (a fully clothed shower scene after one long chase scene is one of the sexiest moments in any Bond movie), she adds a hot gush of estrogen energy to every frame she's in. Her presence opens new stylistic vistas for Spottiswoode, who stages some gonzo action dustups that Ringo Lam or Stanley Tong might appreciate. Best of all, even pretty boy Brosnan looks and behaves like a different man around her. By the end of the film, he's flailing around, caked in sweat and blood with his hairy pecs bristling from a ripped shirt. Spent shells are flying from his machine gun, blood squibs are erupting in crimson symphony and a sort of idiot action bliss suffuses everything. And when he and Yeoh (yes, it's pronounced yow) finally exchange the traditional end-credits kiss, you may even find yourself actively looking forward to the next installment in this revitalized series.