Never to Young to Die poses the question: what if James Bond had a son who was also a secret agent? The answer: they’d make an incredibly bad movie about him. To be clear, NTYTD isn’t supposed to be 007 Jr., but c’mon. You have a former Bond actor (George Lazenby) playing a spy, a Bond girl (Vanity), and a dastardly villain (Gene Simmons) with a sinister plot. Plus the dramatic title that sounds like it could be a legitimate entry in the series. Director Gil Bettman knew where he was going with this. It’s just that getting there went completely left. And shitty.
While on a secret mission, Drew Stargrove (Lazenby) is killed by the evil Velvet Von Ragnar (Simmons). After the funeral, Drew’s son Lance (John Stamos, pre-Uncle Jessie) discovers his father’s spy past. This prompts the college student/gymnast to leap into action (on his little motorbike) and avenge his father’s death. Along the way, Lance teams up with his father’s associate, agent Danja Deering (Vanity). They aim to take down Velvet before she can carry out her plan to poison the city’s water supply.
The movie is truly ridiculous from the get go. We’re supposed to believe Lance can instantly become a super spy? That he can fight off Velvet’s Mad Max-like henchmen with ease? Those are some wacky action sequences, btw. But most importantly, that he can save the world? Mmmmk. Then there’s Danja (spelled how Whoopi would pronounce it). Vanity was clearly brought in to sex up the movie. Cue topless scene. Ultimately her character is flat and one-note. Adding to the blandness is the lack of chemistry with Stamos. Yes, they’re both hot, but it doesn’t translate into anything exciting. Let’s not even get into their bizarre love scene where she hoses herself down and he devours an apple. It’s the furthest thing from erotic.
Velvet is another story. A confusing one. In the film’s summary she’s described as a he/she. That’s offensive. Other reviews claim she’s a hermaphrodite. But at times she seems like a drag queen. Or possibly trans. Anyway you slice it, the character is problematic, even by 80s standards. It doesn’t help that Simmons is dialed up to a 30, on a 1-10 scale. It’s like Bettman said, “just go batshit crazy”, and he really leaned into it, creepy-flicking-tongue first.
NTYTD barely eeks into the “so good it’s bad” category because a majority of it is plain horrible. But it’s also entertaining in a weird way. The movie holds your attention with all the WTF moments, cheesy special effects, and unintentional comedy. For all of that, it’s worth checking out.