Licence to Kill (1989)

reviewed by
Robert Dorsett

                               LICENSE TO KILL
                       A film review by Robert Dorsett
                        Copyright 1989 Robert Dorsett

Timothy Dalton's back as James Bond, in what appears to be a mixture of many plot elements from the *book* LIVE AND LET DIE, the movie THUNDERBALL, and various "Miami Vice" episodes.

The plot: Tragedy strikes Felix Leiter, the CIA agent who's helped out Bond many a time (and who's undergone yet another facelift :-)). The culprit is a drug czar. Bond goes on a revenge trip, accumulating an impressive body count along the way (remember, Bond has the license to *kill*, and he uses it liberally in this one). In the process of his vendetta, the Secret Service disowns him, which makes for a renegade secret agent, and, for the first time in the series' history, a plausible cover story.

Story: mostly sound, almost even believable.

Dialogue: I saw this at a college preview. The audience appreciated some intentionally corny lines. I'm not sure how well the same lines would come across in "real life." "I love James so much"--this from a girl who barely knows him... :-) (That particular scene was a throw-away.) There are a lot of very good wisecracks, as well as self-deprecating humor.

Special effects: some pretty good ones, some very complex. Unfortunately, there are continuity problems on some of the more complex effects.

Stunts: likewise, some very complex ones....

Gore count: still cartoonland violence, but this flick has the highest casualty count in years.

Characterization: Bond's drifting closer to the "book Bond" than even Connery did. He gets really bashed up in this one (although, unlike many a Bond book, he doesn't end up in the hospital). The villain's a suitable match for him, this time around.

Product placement: didn't seem very conspicuous. Of course, a Coast Guard Dauphin II had a big "Aerospatiale" logo on the side of it, which I didn't notice when I examined one fairly closely six weeks ago.... :-)

     Cars: mostly American shit.
     Airplanes: mostly Cessna.

Gadgets: a few. I get the impression that the gadgets were only introduced to bring Q on the screen, who's an audience favorite. It isn't really a gadget movie, but they do use everyday household appliances (spear guns, lighters, airplanes, Stingers) in interesting ways...

Overall review: one of the best adventure films this summer, and the best Bond since THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. Easily on a par with INDY III, and much better than the summer disappointments (GHOSTBUSTERS II, STAR TREK V, BATMAN). 3 stars (out of four), or a 7.5/10 on the genre-sensitive scale.

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