It would be an understatement for me to say that the third installment of Daniel Craig’s 007, a.k.a. Bond film number 23, could not come anytime too soon. In his next outing as the once sultry– but now sulking– MI6 man, Craig and company will have to go above and beyond to make us forget that Bond 22 ever existed.  What Casino Royale had accomplished in producing a Phoenix-like rebirth to a lackluster dynasty, Quantum of Solace obliterates, fatally dousing the fiery flames its predecessor had worked so hard to fan.

Quantum begins where Casino leaves off, a first ever sequel in the franchise’s history. Bond’s ultimate heart-throb,Vesper Lynd, has recently died and Bond is off on a kick-ass tear. Beginning with the proverbial car chase scene, Bond is machine-like dodging machine gunfire without flinching or batting an eye lash around those frosty baby blues. He has a prisoner in tow, Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), packed snugly in Bond’s trunk to be delivered for questioning by M, (Judy Dench) who takes on the task of being the only human element throughout the film. White belongs to a conglomerate of thugs named “Quantum”– the organization behind Vesper’s death and betrayal. One of Quantum’s top henchmen is the enviro-villian Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is poised to topple the Bolivian government to reinstate a former dictator, General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), in exchange for eco-dominance.

Greene throws an ex-girlfriend into the deal, the lovely but vapid, Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who, unbeknownst to Greene, has a personal gripe with the ladies’ man general. Camille is neither tempting to Bond, nor enticing enough to her ex-boyfriend who hands her off to the despot like she’s damaged goods. Gosh, where’s the romance? Even Bond is completely A-sexual in regards to the Latina goddess. The implication that Bond and his female companion are only plutonic – no more than equal comrades in crime – is hammered in by their trudge through the desert sans witty banter, coy gestures, or sexual innuendo.

Jeffrey Wright reappears as CIA agent Felix Leiter from Casino Royale. However he doesn’t reprise the cock-sure attitude he adorned in the aforementioned. He has a conflict of interest here as the CIA is in cahoots with the Quantum tribe. You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s a low political swipe at the Americans that almost made me leap out of my seat. Not to mention the buffoon “American” partner of Leiter’s—a caricature that serves as nothing more than a political posture.  Please. Not in a Bond film.

The talent and versatility of Daniel Craig is completely wasted here in Quantum. Even though M had referred to Bond as a “blunt instrument” back in Casino, he at least demonstrated a human side that was witty, intelligent and charming, thus adhering to the typical 007 code. Here he is nothing more than that “blunt instrument” on steroids, ravaging the wasteland of South America with a vengeance to die hard. I understand he’s hurting but where’s Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross when you need her?  It would be beneficial if, before the next go-round, Bond could undergo The Five Stages of Grief.

As Vesper lingers in Bond’s mind — Eva Green (the actress who played her) lingers in ours. We can understand why Bond cannot forget her; her beauty, wit and intelligence is no match for anyone and Eva portrayed her so elegantly. Unfortunately, this Olga is no Eva. Moreover, Mathieu Amalric is not particularly engaging or convincing as a treacherous villain. The scenes that include his conniving with the Bolivian dictator resemble that of a nerd in high school bullying the school bully around. It’s just not believable.

Ironically, Quantum is sabotaged by the writing firm of Haggis, Purvis, and Wade– the team that had so aptly penned Casino.  Why they so indignantly blot out any semblance of the 46-year old franchise is beyond me.  Director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) is no help either.  His editing/cross-cutting is so over the top that it’s obvious this Bond venture was to prove him as an action director more than anything. I say throw him overboard next time and turn this ship around.

Good news is, somewhere under the callous, bloodthirsty exterior of this 22nd Bond is the disarming and libidinous gentleman of 1 to 21.  Craig has signed on for only two more tours of duty as the British agent so that provides little time for the bewitching actor to make up for this travesty and fan the flames of that Phoenix once again.