Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3 short paragraphs: In Like Flint

1967, Gordon Douglas -- Netflix

I had heard the phrase "In Like Flint" sporadically over the first two decades of my life (having actually mistaken it for "In Like Flynn", thinking it was a Tron reference) before I learned that it was a film, discovering that tidbit of information from the audio commentary on the Austin Powers laserdisc (yeah, that's right).  I don't recall if it was director Jay Roach or Mike Meyers who cited In Like Flint as primary influence on the cheeky, sexed-up spy spoof, but I honestly had never heard of Derek Flint, nor either of the films starring James Coburn as a hyper-intelligent, independently wealthy, dramatically sexualized free agent in the spy game.  It still took another 15 years before I even came across Derek Flint, having never seen it in a video store or on television or on line in reviews, on chat forums, or anywhere for that matter.  Frankly, until In Like Flint popped up on Netflix, I pretty much forgot Flint existed (as it seems most do).

After having watched it, I understand why it hasn't remained in the public consciousness... it's not very good.  Moreover, the character of Derek Flint, at least in this film, is only on screen, it seems, for about 1/3 of the screen time, almost like an ancillary character in his own picture.  Even when Derek Flint is on screen, he doesn't have much going for him in the way of discernible character.  He's smart, which we learn from his awareness of super-science like sonor and cryogenics, but even saying the words, Coburn doesn't seem convinced of what he's saying.  Flint also a renowned lover, having three ladies happily cohabiting at his pad, all deifying his sexual proclivity, yet Coburn himself has exceptionally little in the way of sexual charisma or charm.  I actually laughed out loud upon Flint's first appearance in the film (which doesn't happen until about the 15-minute mark) mainly because I had no idea what to expect, certainly not this tall, lanky, gaunt-looking fellow.  To top it off he's introduced "talking" to a dolphin making dolphin noises, and if anything's going to kill someone's reputation as a Lothario, that will do it.  Coburn's general performance as Flint seems to be with a bit of a chuckle, but from the actor, not the character.

The "case" of the film is pure novelty, with a women's coalition making a play to take over the world, and by the time their grand scheme is revealed to Flint (because he never really figures it out for himself), it actually sounds kind of progressive and positive for 1967, but then Flint chuckles it off, dismissing it in an shocking display of sexism that is about the only thing in this film that raises any eyebrows.  It's a tepid, plodding, boring movie, with a modicum of titillation in its opening theme sequence that promises more than it actually delivers.  It should also be noted this is the second of two Flint movies (the first: Our Man Flint) and it plays like we already know all about Flint and his reputation and takes no effort at elaborating or developing it any further.  I have to wonder if, even in 1967, people were all that aware of who Flint was.  He's certainly not as cool as James Bond, and he's far more ridiculous than Austin Powers.