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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Car, New Star, Bond Is Back

We all saw it coming. The instant Boris Yeltsin stood on that tank in 1991, we knew that five years later, we'd be watching a desperate fight for survival in the spy literature industry, with John Le Carr?, Tom Clancy and the James Bond scriptwriters scratching and clawing for the remaining crumbs of their old market share.

"GoldenEye," which premiered in Russia on Wednesday night and is the first post-Soviet Bond film, was clearly intended to redefine the role of the MI5 superspy in the new era of East-West friendship. It has a new star in Pierce Brosnan -- who, like the other great Bond, Sean Connery, is not English; he's Irish -- a new Bond car, a new Moneypenny, and a slew of other hard-to-miss innovations.

The most conspicuous of these is the new plot premise. As in the old Bond films, the villain, Alec Trevalyan (played by Sean Bean), is an embittered genius intent on destroying the civilized world and enriching himself in the process. He is a Cossack who hates the Russians for the usual reasons and hates the British for forcibly repatriating his people in the 1940s. His plan: to rob the Bank of England via his computer-hacker charge Dmitry while destroying the world financial markets with a stolen Soviet space weapon -- the GoldenEye.

The difference, however, is that the Russian government Alec deceives is now supposedly Bond's ally, a fact Bond can never seem to reconcile himself to. On the one hand, he kills scores of innocent Russian soldiers and policemen, running them over with tanks, crushing them under bronze statues, hurling them off bridges, etc.

On the other hand, he arrives in the country legally, denounces Alec for killing innocent Russians, and manages to drive around St. Petersburg in an old Zaporozhets with familiar character actor Joe Don Baker -- whom even Russians would know would be playing a CIA agent -- without attracting a Russian tail. Furthermore, Bond suffers the humiliation of meeting a Russian gangster who wears a handsomer suit than his own, an unthinkable scenario in the Cold War days.

Screenwriters Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein also went to great lengths to modernize Bond, with positive and negative results.

The new Moneypenny, played by the aptly-named Samantha Bond, is made young and attractive, suggesting that 1990s audiences are not considered sophisticated enough to appreciate the naughty oedipal undertone the old Moneypenny brought to Bond films.

Brosnan, last seen being whacked in the cohones in "Mrs. Doubtfire," appears dubbed in Russian with a voice miraculously dropped several octaves. An excellent comic actor, Brosnan isn't given much of a chance to be funny, and instead labors through a torrent of action scenes which only underscore the fact that he is the skinniest Bond ever.

Furthermore, continuing a trend which began with Timothy Dalton, he is much less conspicuously English than previous Bonds. Part of this is his new German car -- a BMW to replace the Aston Martin -- but mostly it is the absence of the air of old-world superiority which made Sean Connery stand out in places such as Kingston, Jamaica and Istanbul. In fact, in order to avoid the subtle racial condescension of the old movies, Brosnan does not meet a single native in the movie's only Third-World locale, Cuba.

Still, "GoldenEye" is a fun movie with great action scenes (a long St. Petersburg sequence could go down as one of the great car chases ever) some satisfying efforts in the area of Bond clich?s (the female villain Onatopp will certainly take her place next to Pussy Galore and other great Bond names) and lots of cool gadgets provided by Desmond Llewelyn, who as Q appears as the one surviving original Bond actor. If it's not a perfect fit yet, the new Bond is certainly worth developing.

"GoldenEye" is playing at the Dome Theater at the Renaissance Hotel through Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with a 4:30 p.m. show added this Saturday and Sunday and next Sunday. Tickets cost $8. Located at 18/1 Olimpiisky Prospekt. Tel. 931-9873. Nearest metro: Prospekt Mira.