Die Another Day

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“Die Another Day” comes at a time when the marketplace is already full of action-heavy spy movies, some of which out-Bond James Bond.

“XXX” was worthless popcorn entertainment, but it was HONEST worthless popcorn entertainment, fully embracing its reliance on outrageous stunts and making no apologies for its absurdity.

“The Transporter” was smart, fast, thrilling stuff, featuring a hero who served only his own interests but still managed to save the day — all in 92 minutes.

“Die Another Day,” on the other hand, assumes viewers will be supportive simply because it’s A James Bond Movie. What occurs here is no more exciting, interesting or entertaining than what went on in either of the two films just named; in fact, “Die Another Day” seems stodgy and staid by comparison.

It also seems long, which bespeaks a certain level of self-importance. If most mindless action flicks can tell their stories in 100 minutes, why does this one need 132? To make room for all the double-entendres and bad puns?

The 20th Bond installment finds the ageless British spy in a sorry state. He has spent 14 months in a Korean prison camp, having been ratted out by some unknown compatriot, and his own government has given up on him. He is a rogue now, looking for both his betrayer and a Korean bad guy named Zao (Rick Yune).

This takes him, naturally, to Cuba (?), and eventually to Iceland (??). A billionaire named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) becomes involved, and you can tell he’s a Bond villain because he has an odd physical trait: He never sleeps. I eagerly await the Bond villain who has two heads.

Bond also interacts (and I think you know what THAT means) with Gustav’s assisant, the aptly named Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike); and with a buxom gal named Jinx (Halle Berry), an American who seems to be some kind of secret agent, too.

Q (John Cleese) has one hilarious scene, M (Judi Dench) is classy as always, Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) is nearly forgotten — they all seem like afterthoughts, used only because Bond films require them, not because this specific movie needed them.

As James Bond, Pierce Brosnan is as blandly suave as ever. It’s a little hard to take him seriously, though: When there is a character named Mr. Kil, and Bond replies, “That’s a name to die for,” you wonder not only who writes this crap, but why you’re even putting up with it.

Who writes this crap, by the way, are Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the same duo that gave us “The World Is not Enough,” which had the sense to winkingly acknowledge Bond’s status as a dinosaur in the modern world. “Die Another Day,” on the other hand, pretends it has never seen the Austin Powers movies, which effectively ridiculed most of the things that happen in “Die Another Day.”

Ah, but what can you do? “Die Another Day” has Bond driving an invisible car. You heard me, an INVISIBLE CAR. What’s cooler than that? The opening sequence is promising, as the stakes seem to be raised a bit for the usually unflappable Bond, but it quickly becomes ordinary after that: Bond sleeps around, a lot of people die, and plenty of stuff blows up. It is business as usual — and business as usual now seems lifeless and tiresome.

C+ (2 hrs., 12 min.; PG-13, one profanity, abundant action violence, some brief sexuality, a lot of sexual innuendo.)

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