Friday, 5 February 2016

Underrated Bond: Henchmen

Bond henchmen are a dime a dozen. Good ones are hard to come by. A few have gained iconic status  (Oddjob, Jaws, Xenia Onatopp) while others are lauded by die-hard fans (From Russia With Love's superlative Red Grant).

Here are a few that deserve bigger profiles.

Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd, Diamonds are Forever
These guys are great. So weird, so creepy. So detached from the main action of the plot, and yet they are one of the most memorable things about Sean Connery's last (official) outing. Indeed, ask anyone what they remember from this movie and it is either that endless moon buggy chase or those two creepy killers.

With their bizarre, shared sense of humour and assassination methods that feel more like macabre performance art, Wint and Kidd are a true one of a kind.

Simultaneously camp and menacing, the odd dynamic between Bruce Glover's OTT performance as Mr. Wint and non-actor Putter Smith should not work, and yet adds to their odd charm. Apparently, Putter Smith (a jazz musician) caught the eye of director Guy Hamilton after he saw him playing at a concert.

Locque, For Your Eyes Only

Locque shows that you do not need any gimmicks or super abilities to be a great henchman: he proves that professionalism and boring features can go a long way.

I would contend that Locque holds the title for being the most unassuming yet cold of Bond's foes.

The fact he looks so nondescript is a big part of why I like him. Like Necros, he is just a professional -- he's not out to make a statement with any kind of calling card, he just gets the job done.

His death scene, in which Bond kicks his car off a cliff, is one of the most memorable in the franchise.

Necros, The Living Daylights

I included Necros in an article I wrote last year on underrated villains. The best villain of Dalton's tenure, and easily the best of the 80s, Necros is the heir apparent to Red Grant's throne as the most effective and unstoppable of Bond's foes. In a decade not known for its iconic henchmen, Necros stands out, and even when placed next to the more iconic Oddjob and Jaws, his effectiveness cannot be denied.

Necros's greatness is cemented in one unjustly un-celebrated sequence -- his one-man assault on the MI6 safe house. Employing his talents for disguise, accents, martial arts and improvised explosives, this sequence acts as a bloody CV of his abilities.

No other henchman could have accomplished this sequence -- Oddjob and Jaws are too recognisable, and their very specific skills would have been useless in both getting into and out of the compound. The fact that Necros manages both difficult tasks with calm and efficiency emphasise how truly underrated he is in the pantheon.

The final fight between Bond and Necros out the rear end of a cargo plane, with both men holding on for dear life, packs a visceral punch not just because of the immediate stakes of being hundreds of feet in the air, but because we've already seen how capable Necros is when the odds are (seemingly) against him.

Trivia: Actor Andreas Wisniewski would later play Tony, John McClane's first kill in Die Hard.

Renard, The World Is Not Enough

Often mis-labelled as the villain of Brosnan's third outing, Renard is really just the lap dog of the film's real villain.

Simultaneously the kidnapper/tormentor/lover/partner/servant of Elektra King, their bizarre, psychosexual dynamic is the most original relationship in the series's long history.

With a bullet in the brain that has killed off his pain receptors and will eventually kill him, Renard is literally a man with nothing to lose. His eventual demise is all part of the plan, and the resulting chaos a parting gift to the woman he loves. 

Robert Carlyle's performance is too subtle and layered for the movie he is in, but he makes it more worthwhile to watch.

Since the filmmakers are always plundering past movies for ideas, hopefully some day we will get a re-write of Renard and Elektra in a better movie.

For other relevant posts:

Underrated Bond: Women

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