Monday, March 05, 2007

Wake Up And Smell The Dalton

Outside: Tottenham Court Road with its infestation of electronics shops – a large fellow from Croydon telling passersby about his Irish cousins – the mutterings of the Chip Nazi down towards Centre Point – a spattering of rain and bad breath – half-chewed cigarettes and empty lager cans.

Inside: a parade of trailers – frat-boy nonsense “from the producers of etcetera” – advertising all subtext, no substance – pangs from the realisation that Orange mobile phone commercials are now replete with Michael Madsen (oh Seagal, I miss thee jowls) – and a showing of Hot Fuzz, the latest filmic adventure from those guys who like movies.

But let’s not digress into sarky statements, for the film is a sheer joy, jam-packed with all sorts of references and tributes to cheeseball cop flicks from antiquity, all mixed with some fine English nuance and wit. Making up for that lack of Seagal in the cinematic preface, one scene has Out For Justice exhibited as ingredient on a stack of DVDs; alas, Point Break is the canonical film chosen for extended homage treatment. Also, in-between Jackie Chan idolatry and He-Man nostalgia lies, rather more implicitly, a reference to Jeff Fahey’s epic turn in Corpses, with Simon Peg aping the climatic revelation of MegaFahey in that 2004 tour de force.

My question is: who amongst a stunning cast featuring the likes of Steve Coogan, the glorious Kevin Eldon, our favourite god-fearing policeman Edward Woodward, arch-swearer Paddy Considine, Adam sans Joe, and Bill Bailey, is able to stand-out, is able to exist emphasised as though underlined and emboldened at one and the same time, as if someone knew the keyboard shortcuts on Microsoft Word?

The calzone of inquiry unfolds with ease, spreading its doughy limbs and permitting the aroma of a reply to drift heavenward.

Strutting through the moors of Hot Fuzz, head angled with pride, stares piercing alloys left and right, is none other than one Mr Timothy Dalton.

“Who?” I hear you say, “That guy from The Rocketeer?” Oh, do not tease this old man, your jesting responses only belie the knowledge both of us are well aware you possess. But how does one know anything – is this not the problem? Books, hearsay, the chimes of info virulently disseminated across cultural milieux, notions spat into the ozone then recycled as an afterword, words and guts, preconceptions and prejudices, thought and thoughtless. Where’s the answer? Didn’t Foucault say something or other about it?

“I dunno, t’was a big old archaeology of knowledge.”

Perhaps something to do with those discursive formations he was ever so fond of? Societal institutions and conventions laying a framework for ideas, making a nice little fence around that floating cerebral matter? Is Dalton one of these discursive formations? Is that the deduction being proposed here?

Well, that remains to be seen, but probably. Regardless, he plays a wonderfully sleazy, crinkly-faced supermarket entrepreneur in Hot Fuzz, forever enlightening the mise-en-scene, and radiating UV-rays of charm and charisma.

A perplexed face or two spoke of questions proliferating under the surface of their skin. Unforgivable, but necessary for this narrative, queries concerning the presence of the spectre of Dalton began to run out. “Who is this fine gent? Is that Pierce Brosnan, and if so, what happened his simian complexion? Was he in The Man From UNCLE?”

All good questions, sufficient to keep a chap from lapsing into ennui on a bus late at night. The answers are, in reverse order: no, no, and allow me to blot in those blanks for your good self.

Timothy Dalton, Wales’ all-time most brilliant export, came to fame by playing James Bond in 1987’s Living Daylights, effortlessly making all his precursors look like proscenium hacks. His time in the tux started well enough, but it was his second outing in the franchise that cemented his historical significance: License to Kill.

Without exception, when this film crops up in conversation, my words stutter and congeal into a mass of undifferentiated syllables – that’s its power. The film annihilates all equivocality as to the status of which Bond is the absolute best. License to Kill, with its immense body count and elevated age certificate, simply cannot be touched. Dalton portrays Bond at his most badass: stripped of his secret service homicide-authorisation, and giving M and his old cohorts a deserved mammoth snub, Bond turns rogue, using all his skills to brutal effect under the pretext of revenge. The glowing two hours of the film are the creamy filling of the entire series, unmatched by anything that came before and after its birth. I’ve been called perverse for having this viewpoint in the past, and that may be a fair accusation, but the magnetism of Dalton is overwhelming, so much so that one can barely see what the hell those Dying Tomorrows were all about.

Underscoring humanity’s knack for undervaluing many of its cultural icons, Dalton was ousted not simply from the chain of spy tales, but also from half-decent filmmaking in general. The nineties were submerged in gloom, and the desolate wailings of Dalton became imprisoned within his dimpled somatic shell. Where were the beams of luminance redirected to? Inside Dalton’s own frame I can only suppose. So just imagine upwards of a decade and a half of pent-up wonder, trapped rummaging Dalton’s intestinal tract, suddenly being unleashed in prime cinematic glory. This is akin to the presence of Dalton in Hot Fuzz.

The performance is a mauling to all those naysayers sat in their ivory towers, scribbling notebook-polemics against what they interpreted as a decline in Bond and, in turn, expressing their own inadequacies as patrons satisfactorily-qualified to throw down a few words on the issue. Not even the on-looking posters of Roger Moore glance down at them positively. They usher-in disgrace from a crowd that’s soon to include most of the world’s sane-minded individuals – assuming they watch Hot Fuzz that is.

The obvious point of interest to come from these bouts of cinematic resurrection is the prognostication accorded to what possible results we might now see. It may not be quite analogous to Fahey in Grindhouse, slight variations in budget, scope and expectation nullify that, but the door has been undoubtedly swung open for Dalton. Lined up for the future could be roles in the latest batch of superhero fare, with Timmy D playing a villain opposite some tights-wearing big name (tagline: Dalton turns into a maniacal ficus who plays the piano). Or a move into the misanthropia of Todd Solondz’s movie worlds (tagline: Dalton touches preteens while flicking through a copy of The New Yorker). Maybe a turn in Chan-wook Park’s latest (tagline: Dalton plans revenge while wearing sublime eye-shadow). Maybe a remake of Peeping Tom with a DV cam (tagline: Dalton kills with FireWire).

One has to envy the sudden outpouring of opportunity to present itself to studio execs in the path of this neo-Daltonian shift, let’s just hope this fine second chance does not drop to the wayside and die before it has even time to learn to walk.


Anonymous DukeDeMondo said...

if the flick is anywhere near as good as this screed, then i'll be very very happy.

brave, Sir Fleming, i'm comment-less at the fucking wonder of these things of late.

and damn right Licence To Kill rocked. the only bond i've ever seen, the only one i feel i'll ever have to.

8:37 pm  

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