Review: Becoming Bond

I was really looking forward to this 2017 film from Josh Greenbaum, as the story of how an Aussie model/car salesman became James Bond (in 1969 after Sean Connery hung up his tux temporarily), didn’t cope well with the fame, and decided to not sign on for more films, is a potentially very worthy one indeed. It’s a shame then, that this dubious enterprise…isn’t about ‘Becoming Bond’ for 95% of its length. Even though I’d heard George Lazenby tell the basic story before, I was still hoping this would be the story of how that happened and maybe a little about what happened to him afterwards. Instead, the Bond thing only comes into the film with about 10-15 minutes to go, and even then they rush through it! That’s the film, you idiot! That’s the story everyone will come into this wanting to see! So what do Greenbaum and Lazenby give us instead? One of the worst and most unconvincing documentaries ever made. This shit’s got even less credibility than Louis Theroux’s infantile, passive-aggressive temper tantrum “My Scientology Movie” from the previous year (The funny thing? That was 2016’s worst film. This film is a few places further up on 2017’s worst so far).

The film isn’t a traditional documentary, as there’s re-enactments with Aussie comedian/actor Josh Lawson (surely talented enough to not be resorting to shit like this) playing Lazenby almost as embarrassingly unconvincingly as he did in a recent Paul Hogan TV biopic. It’s obvious that without these re-enactments (featuring a few obviously non-Australians putting on woeful Mick Dundee accents as well) the film would be half as long, and worthless as a feature-length doco. With them it’s twice and long and just as worthless, and Lawson is woefully miscast. What doesn’t help matters is the tone, which in the re-enactments is buffoonishly comedic, and combined with Lazenby’s frankly dubious ‘tall tales’ yarn-spinning, it leaves you questioning if Mr. Lazenby isn’t just a total bullshit artist. I mean, he brought a bagful of bats to school as a kid? Shut up. It fits the whole larrikin thing, but it’s surely made up. 30 minutes in and Lazenby’s still spinning his yarn about being an “Alvin Purple”-esque skirt-chaser. It’s not interesting, and it’s definitely not convincing. After 46 minutes Greenbaum finally calls Lazenby out on his bullshit, but then accepts a lame ‘If I can remember it, how can it not be true?’ rationale. What horseshit, and shame on Greenbaum for going along with what frankly wouldn’t even cut it as a DVD extra.

How in the hell did this manage to get made and released? Honestly, all George seemed to do before he became Bond was shag chicks, pull pranks at school, and take LSD. Wow, that’s fascinating stuff right there, and that’s with George’s likely embellishments accounted for. One of those embellishments is a flat-out lie that can be proven to some degree: On the DVD extras for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (which, if it had starred Sean Connery and trimmed 10 minutes or so, would be unquestionably the best Bond movie of all-time), Lazenby recounts the tale of how he managed to get a hold of one of Sean Connery’s 007 suits for his audition. Here he asserts that he actually stole one. I’m 99.99% certain that’s not what he says on the DVD extra (He said he bought it from Connery’s tailor after Connery failed to pick it up), so either he was a bullshitter there or a bullshitter now. Either way, he’s a bullshitter (Bear in mind the amount of bullshitting he actually talks about doing during the course of the doco, so he’s definitely capable of lying to the audience) and this is a terrible film. By the time he starts to show some reflection on any possible mistakes he may have made personally and professionally, I wasn’t buying it because he has come across here as unreliable, and the film itself so irreverent that a serious moment like that seems disingenuous and unconvincing. As for the Jane Seymour cameo (as a casting agent who helps Lazenby land the gig of 007), it’s not funny, and she wasn’t even in the same Bond movie George was in, so why the hell is she here? I also think the snooty, humourless depiction of “OHMSS” director Peter Hunt is completely unfair and unfunny. Meanwhile, at one point, Lazenby is called arrogant. The problem is that in this Lazenby-approved version of his story, neither Mr. Lazenby nor Mr. Lawson portray Lazenby as arrogant, because that’d make ‘ol George look bad.

A complete cock-up of a film, with a comical tone and unreliable narrator torpedoing the whole thing. Meanwhile, the only reason you’re watching the damn film in the first place is in the last 15 minutes. The rest is a mixture of tedium and bullshit, with absolutely no attention paid to the numerous roles Lazenby played post-Bond (Including his best work as the villain in the Aussie/HK Kung-Fu cult classic “The Man From Hong Kong”). The film apparently wants us to think there was no acting roles after 1969, which simply isn’t true (He made 50+ other films afterwards). One of the year’s worst, this is a flimsy, insincere excuse for a documentary. Becoming Bond? No, this is Becoming the Bloke Who Eventually Becomes Bond. Perhaps not all actors’ tales are interesting enough to be told on film, or perhaps this is just awfully told. The approach taken makes it somewhat hard to tell which, all I know is I felt insulted by the film.

Rating: D-


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