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This is the most underrated film in the series. It's ironic that the first
of the EON films not to draw its title directly from an Ian Fleming story
is also the closest in spirit to Fleming since "On Her Majesty's Secret
Service." Of course, the titles had long since become the ONLY connection
between Fleming's original stories and the movies -- the film plots and
Roger Moore's portrayal bore almost no resemblance to Fleming's Bond.
In "License to Kill" continues what he started in "The Living Daylights": he portrays a Bond that is still an ultra-suave superagent, but is also moody and reckless -- in other words, human.
Bond is driven to avenge the near murder of his friend Felix Leiter (and the murder of Leiter's wife) at the hands of drug lord Franz Sanchez. Sanchez is excellently played by Robert Davi. He ends up being assisted by CIA agent Pam Bouvier. Bouvier is played by Cary Lowell, in a performance that earns her automatic entry onto the list of top 5 all time Bond women.
Some elements of the story come from Fleming's short story "The Hildebrande Rarity." Sanchez's doomed henchmen Milton Krest is lifted directly from "The Hildebrand Rarity," and elements of the relationship between Sanchez and his girlfriend Lupe echo that of Krest and his wife Liz in the original story.
The other Fleming story drawn upon is "Live and Let Die" for the plot-driving scene in which Leiter is thrown to the sharks. (This marks the second time that Fleming's "Live and Let Die" was drawn upon for a key scene in a movie other than the film version of LALD. The other is the "dragged behind a speedboat over the reef" scene in "For Your Eyes Only." It kind of makes you wonder what the powers that be at EON were thinking when they couldn't find a place for these powerful, effective scenes in the pastiche that is LALD.)
"License to Kill" features a realistic, believable story. Add to it the equal ruthlessness of Bond and Sanchez in their respective portrayals by Dalton and Davi and you have a movie that will stand out over time as one of the best in the series.
Timothy Dalton only played Bond twice, but he tried to base his
interpretation of the character on the descriptions provided by Ian Fleming
in the original novels. Therefore, his Bond is quite ruthless and
embittered, and always ready to stick two fingers up at the establishment if
he feels they've got it wrong.
Bond is vacationing in Florida, acting as best-man at his friend Felix Leiter's wedding, when the unthinkable happens. Leiter and his wife are assaulted by some Central American thugs; the wife is murdered and Leiter is crippled by sharks. Bond is obviously deeply unhappy about this, but his bosses instruct him to let the matter drop and get on with another assignment. 007 knows who is responsible for the injuries to his friend, so he revokes his licence to kill and becomes a rogue agent, tracking down the villainous drug lord Sanchez (Robert Davi) to his Latin America headquarters. Here, aided by Sanchez's unfaithful mistress Lupe (Talisa Soto) and CIA agent Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), Bond attempts to wipe out their enormous clandestine drug operation single-handedly.
There's definitely an uneasy, hard edge to the film which makes it unique among the Bond series. Whether or not this improves the film depends on your personal taste: if you like safe, humorous Roger Moore escapades, you'll probably find this too jarring, whereas if you prefer espionage stories with a bit of grit and sweat, this may be just what you're after. The action sequences are still outrageous in the tried-and-trusted Bond style, with memorable episodes featuring a daring helicopter .vs. airplane pursuit; a barefoot water-skiing sequence; and a truck chase down the side of a mountain. Some of the language, though not out-and-out "foul", is a bit stronger and more believable than in other Bond entries. The theme tune from Gladys Knight and the Pips is one of the better 007-tracks.
Licence to Kill is a new twist on the Bond theme. It isn't the best, and some of its new ideas don't fit with the usual routine (which may or may not be a good thing), but it is certainly interesting.
Licence To Kill is one of the most underrated Bond movies since On Her
Majesty's Secret Service. Slipping easily back into 007's shoes with
style after his previous role as Bond, Timothy Dalton embodies the
character. With a break away from the comic-book villains and
fantastical locations, the filmmakers decide to focus instead on a very
adult and contemporary story about drug smuggling and revenge. Michael
G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum's story is engaging and exciting, with a
steadfast confidence in their leading man. This is a Bond movie that
took risks -- it was the first 15-rated Bond film in the UK -- and
surely deserves kudos for doing so. Make no mistake; this is not a
family Bond picture. Its themes require a more mature perspective than
its predecessors, and the violence is certainly stronger than anything
that had come before. Unfortunately, these factors seem to be what
critics of Licence To Kill call 'faults'. But why is change so bad, I
ask? Casino Royale is getting major appreciation from critics for its
grittiness and its darker edge. So why not Licence To Kill? After all,
this is the movie that started the current trend, with Dalton's mature
portrayal of Bond paving the way for Pierce Brosnan and, without doubt,
Daniel Craig. It always amazes me that people do not give Dalton more
respect for what he did with the character. This guy started the ball
rolling. And boy did he give it a hard push.
The characters in Licence To Kill are one of it's major plus points. James Bond is the most human we have seen him in 20 years, as Dalton brings a real sense emotional depth to the character; a tortured man full of hurt and pain and vengeance, his determined and stony face almost cracking with the burning hatred that is barely contained inside of him. We also get a strong female lead with Carey Lowell, whose portrayal of Pam Bouvier is at once intelligent, sexy, and funny. On the flip side of the coin, we have a genuinely terrifying villain in the shape of Robert Davi, playing his role deadly straight with not a hint of camp. It's a rare scenario where you feel Bond has met someone of equal competence. The Sanchez character is a frightening presence, and an early role from Benicio Del Toro is just as effective; his chilling grin a fear-inducing sight.
Technically speaking, John Glen's direction is taught and assured, with the pace never really letting up for the 130+ minutes running time, save at the very end of the movie where the spectacular truck chase sequence perhaps drags just a little. The brilliant Michael Kamen also supplies us with an elegant, sensual and brooding score that is a vital player unto itself, complimenting the visuals excellently.
In spite of these pluses, there are some minor quibbles. As I said before, the truck finale is perhaps a bit long, even though the stunt work is amazing, but it does slow the pace a bit. Talisa Soto is indeed beautiful as Sanchez' girlfriend but, bless her, she isn't exactly the most talented actress on the planet. She plays her part well enough, but the role isn't exactly Oscar-worthy, and it's not helped by the fact that the script tends to relegate her to the sidelines. Everett McGill's cigar-chomping Killifer is rather too pantomime for me - he just doesn't stand up to the characters of Sanchez or Anthony Zerbe's Krest but he doesn't stick around long so doesn't get in the way too much.
With a striking leading man in Bond's shoes, Licence To Kill deserves a lot more credit than it gets. This is the film that broke the mould, opening the doors to a more adult, violent Bond world that continued briefly with some of the Brosnan films and certainly with Daniel Craig's portrayal of the character. In Timothy Dalton we have a brilliant actor in the starring role who brought us a more human and believable Bond, yet it is Daniel Craig who is currently getting the credit for these exact traits. Don't get me wrong, his characterisation is superb. But Dalton is the one who started it off, and it is a shame that he only made the two films.
John Glen says that from all of the Bond movies that he directed, Licence To Kill is the one he is most proud of. And rightly so. Not only do we get a more fleshed-out character in Bond than previous outings, we get a more believable and mature storyline, with great characters and competent direction. Definitely one of the most underrated Bond movies, this engaging film is a great piece of entertainment, and one that I hope will gather praise with time. See it.
The worst-performing movie in the Bond movie in terms of grosses, it
probably failed because it wasn't really a Bond at all. True, it is the
character Fleming created, and Q is in there, but this extremely violent
thriller with its strong female characterisation (Carey Lowell, perhaps the
only Bond girl with `balls') is not a neat fit with the
The only one of the franchise created especially with star Timothy Dalton in mind (perhaps the sexiest Bond of them all?) it is a tale of loyalty, drug cartels, sharks, and 007 losing his licence and setting off as a vigilante. Lowell plays agent Pam Bouvier, who shines in a bar fight and gives 007 as good as he gets. And boy, do these two have chemistry together!
The only problem with this movie is that it gets so truncated on its TV showings that it loses a lot of its point (and in the worst edit I saw, its sense). There is perhaps too much going on - the abused Latino bimbo, the crooked evangelist, the Japanese businessmen touring the factory, the casino
Not at all as bad as many commentators at the time and since have suggested. What a pity the series stagnated after this before its big budget Pierce Bronson revival. Dalton should have had the chance to show us more of the character he portrays in `Licence to Kill'. And what a great theme tune from Gladys Knight.
I really liked Timothy Dalton as Bond. I really thought the guy did a
job. The Living Daylights was an excellent Bond thriller, more in line
Dr No and From Russia With Love in tone and style, but with Licence To
you can tell that Broccoli decided to compete with the big boys with this
action packed spectacular that aims high and scores. What we have here is
Bond with spectacular action scenes and a more nastier steak with regards
the violence that is more in line with Hollywood action blockbusters than
with quintessential British spies. This is why the film works. Licence To
Kill is much more darker than any of the Bond films that has come before,
and after the silliness of the Moore era, that was what this franchise
needed. Why have world domination craving villains when you can just p*ss
Bond off, big time. Having Felix Lieter maimed and his wife killed on
wedding day is inspired and immediately puts the film on a darker streak.
The script here is very strong as we watch a darker more violent Bond
infiltrate the bad guy's lifestyle and then proceed to work from there.
Don't make any mistakes this is not a Bond film that would be broadcast during a Bank Holiday afternoon. What we have here is a film that is graphically violent. Check out the head explosion scene or the nasty incidents involving sharks. Having Bond on the revenge path makes for a more interesting tale than just another villain trying to take over the world. The more personal element fits in with this more darker Bond. Dalton really rises to the occasion here and ensures that he will be remembered as a fine actor who played the part of James Bond. The ice cool look of anger as he dumps a bad guy into a shark tank with a case fool of money is fantastic as is his reaction to finding Lieter's dead wife. It may not be said, buy OHMSS is being referenced. Helping Dalton along the way is a great support cast. Robert Davi is superb as Franz Sanchez, without doubt the nastiest Bond villain there has ever been. We have two Bond girls too. Talisa Soto is beautifully sultry, but Carey Lowell just pips her to the post as Pam Bouvier who really gives Bond a run for his money. Another great casting point is an increased role for Q. Desmond Lewellyn appears here more than he ever has done before, helping out in the mission that makes one wonder the Bond writers never thought of it before, or why they never did it after.
Licence To Kill is classic Bond. Purists may give of with the more American touch to the narrative (you just know that any theatrical trailer is crying out for voice over man to go "this time it's personal"), but the more darker narrative suits the film and it shows that Dalton was a good Bond no matter what his critics say. With some of the most spectacular action sequences at the time, this is a genuine Bond classic.
Shaken and stirred most definitely.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the most serious Bond movie since "From Russia with Love," writer
Michael G. Wilson eliminated some of the very elements that have
contributed to the longevity of the seriesnamely, the biting humor,
fascinating locations, and a grandiose scheme perpetrated by a fantasy
"Licence to Kill" was almost a claustrophobic Bond considering
its limited and uninteresting trips to Key West and Isthmus City
Daltonwho is once again serious and on targetshould have been lightened up a bit Audiences who spend two or more hours with Bond need to laugh once in a while Thankfully, Q, awarded the biggest role of his film career (following a tip-off from an anxious Moneypenny), was on hand to provide some crucial comic relief
The story was a brave departure from anything previously ventured: shortly after acting as best man at the wedding of Felix Leiter, Bond discovers that Leiter's bride has been murdered and that his friend has been savaged by a shark With grim determination, 007 launches a personal vendetta against Frank Sanchez, the sadistic drug baron responsible; his obsession sees him stripped of his license to kill by a furious M (Robert Brown).
Robert Davi proved to be an excellent choice for the role of murderous South American drug lord Franz Sanchez Surrounded by a private army that keeps potential assassins at arm's length, Sanchez was not an easy target His main associates include corrupt seaman Anthony Zerbe, a drunken pervert and a sadist Benecio Del Toro
Carey Lowell showed to be the best Bond girl in years She was delightful as Pam Bouvier, a resourceful, beautiful CIA pilot and undercover operative who helps Bond at every turn Her excellent introduction in the Barrelhead Bar is nothing but pure dynamite
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After a major drugs bust CIA agent Felix Leiter gets married with his
friend James Bond as his best man. However in a revenge attack drug
lord Franz Sanchez mutilates Leiter and kills his wife. James Bond
wants revenge but is ordered to stay out of it. Ignoring the order Bond
goes on a personal vendetta to bring down Sanchez's organisation.
This was Dalton's second and last Bond movie. It was also his best. The nature of Bond is a lot darker than during the Roger Moore years and this lends itself to a more violent film with revenge as the motivation. The story is actually OK and allows some humour, however some may not like the idea of Bond as a vigilante type. The action is pretty good although not as visually stunning as other blockbusters. The drama is good and the Bond girls are all good.
Dalton was a good Bond no matter what is said all he did was take it back to the root rather than playing it camp like Moore, he gave a harder edge to the role that was missing. Davi is a good bad guy he can do this in his sleep and he's good here even if his 'evil Cuban guy' dial is turned up to 11! The girls are both good in different ways Lowell's more demure comedy role or Soto's vixen. The inclusion of faces like Everett McGill is good and the rising star of Benicio Del Toro is an interesting find in retrospect. Wayne Newton is also really funny in a funny cameo.
Overall this isn't the best of the Bonds but it is a nice change after years of Moore being camp. The darker edge may put some off but it does add more action to the proceedings that had been missing recently.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Licence To Kill came out during the huge box office summer of '89 (which
included Batman, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters II, etc). Unfortunately,
advertising and Timothy Dalton's lack of appeal to American audiences did
not bring in the big bucks that could have been expected. While the film
not do great in the US compared to other Bond films, it still did well
overseas. Because of the assumption that LTK was a flop, people consider
one of the weakest entries in the series. Needless to say, they're dead
Sanchez is one of the most realistic, deadly villains Bond has ever met, and this is also 007's most personal mission yet. Felix Leiter, the trusted ally and Bond's best friend is fed to sharks and his newlywed bride has been murdered. After Bond decides to attend to Felix and find out what happens and doesn't leave for his mission, he resigns and his license to kill is revoked by M. Bond goes on a personal vendetta which involves more spying, more detective work and less gadgets and over the top villanious plans. Licence to Kill isn't everybody's cup of tea, and some think it's a Charles Bronson rip off, but personally I see it as more of an Ian Fleming Bond movie, which is ironic since this is the first movie title not to be taken from a Fleming novel. Q has a nice supporting role rather than the smaller role he usually has.
In a way, I always see Licence to Kill to be the end of an era for Bond films. It seemed with Goldeneye's release in 1995, Pierce Brosnan's Bond is not the same Bond as portrayed by his four predecessors. I don't know why, but with Felix Leiter out of action, Bond losing his license, the last appearance of so many members of the Bond crew and cast, it seems like Dalton's final portrayal was the end of one continuity, and Brosnan's is a new, revamped Bond. Nonetheless, this is one of the best Bond films of the entire series, both pre-Brosnan and the Brosnan era.
Sure, it's not the best 007 film, and Dalton is not the best Bond (that
would be Brosnan or Connery, leaning toward Connery for the better
films), but the idea that anyone would be appalled by the violence in
this movie is, err, appalling. Did people forget that in DR. NO Connery
plugs six bullets into Prof. Dent? Or breaks the neck of No's security
guard on the island? Or that Quarrel is graphically roasted alive by
the dragon? In FRWL, people are strangled and stabbed and beaten and
shot throughout the entire movie! Had no one actually read Fleming's
LIVE AND LET DIE novel? Bond is a Secret Agent with a Licence To Kill,
hence the title of this movie! At the time, I was very impressed with
this movie, and still find it enjoyable to watch though it hasn't aged
well. The dialog is rough at times and so is some of the acting, though
it had the best cast in a 007 film in dog's years! The costuming is a
joke, the drug story shop-worn, and 007's 'resignation' scene, what
should have been the first truly dramatic moment of the entire movie,
is treated as though the movie starred Steven Segal! Also, in a series
where music plays an integral part, this movie just didn't come
through. Knight's title theme has a rousing under-rhythm, but overall
it's just a modern 'Thunderball', and Kamen's non-score makes me feel
like I'm watching a 'Lethal Weapon' movie. When it ends and the most
memorable music in the film is the Mex-mariachi music from the trucks'
speakers, you know the music director f'd up big time! How come that
wasn't on the soundtrack? Heh-he.
Still there are plenty high points thanks to the EON team: David Hedison as the best Felix Lieter ever, Carey Lowell as the best Bond Girl since Melina Havelock, Q's extended presence, the camera-gun, the Hong Kong narcotics plot twist, and the credible action stunts (007 overtaking the drug money plane is breathless from the moment he harpoon's one of Sanchez' men, pun intended)! Seeing James Bond actually get hurt at the end of the movie was a real stunner though! In the end, it's not great Bondage, but it's an overlooked cut above much of it's competition.
Licence to Kill is directed by John Glen and written by Richard Maibaum
and Michael G. Wilson. It's an original story that uses characters and
instances created by Ian Fleming. It stars Timothy Dalton, Carey
Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Desmond Llewelyn,
David Hedison, Benicio Del Toro, Frank McRae, Everett McGill and Wayne
Newton. Music is scored by Michael Kamen and cinematography by Alec
Bond 16 and 007 goes rogue when drug baron Franz Sanchez leaves Felix Leiter mutilated and his wife dead. With licence revoked by MI6, Bond has to go it alone to enact revenge for the Leiters.
The controversial Bond for many reasons, Licence to Kill even today has been known to induce fearsome arguments in Bond fan circles. Not since On Her Majesty's Secret Service has a Bond film so polarised opinions. In one corner are the folks who determine it's not a Bond movie, in the other is those who say it's a stripped to the bone human Bond. You either love it or you hate it it seems. True to say that it is more an action thriller than a outright Bond film, no humongous sets, no megalomaniac villain (Davi's drug baron a very realistic menace) and of course there is Bond being pursued by those that have courted him previously as their number one agent. Yet there's a whole raft of scenarios that could only exist in a Bond universe, there's gadgets, too, for those that enjoy that side of Bond. Where else would you see a tanker driving on its side? Or exploding toothpaste and alarm clock, camera's that turn into weapons and a broom that is actually a transmitter? Not Bondian enough? Really?
Licence to Kill is a superior action thriller movie, the script is tight, the cast ace and the picture is crammed full of exceptional action set pieces. From the pre-credits sequence that sees Bond and Leiter enact a mid-air arrest, to the rather brilliant tanker carnage at the finale, the film rarely pauses for breath, and right there in the centre is a brilliant Dalton giving a rogue Bond plenty of layers. He's brainy and classy, fallible and driven, intense and tough, always sexy and always dangerous. Dalton's ability to convey raw emotion as each challenge comes his way is a real treat to watch. But most of all he is right there restoring Bond to being a serious action figure. What Bond fans didn't realise at the time was that it would be 17 years before Bond would be this raw again, then it would be heralded as a brave new start for Bond!
Another of the film's strengths is bringing back Hedison as Leiter, last seen playing the role in Live and Let Die, Hedison has great chemistry with Dalton and it's a joy to see Leiter play an active part in the action on screen. However, the makers do make a misstep by having Leiter be all too jovial at the end of the film, weird since he is minus a limb and his wife was raped and murdered by Sanchez's henchmen. Another big plus is Lowell's Pam Bouvier, a tough and brave Bond girl, sexy as heck, her pilot skills come in handy and she's no mug when it comes to brawling. Lowell does fine work in the role and keeps it away from being a token interest cliché. Davi keeps Sanchez as believable, a very driven drug baron who is cultured and funny, but always pulsing a vicious streak, while McRae has presence, McGill neatly keeps the cards close to his chest, Del Toro a nice line in nastiness and Soto is pretty as a picture and plays Lupe Lamora with skilled vulnerability. And of course there's Llewelyn as Q, who here gets a right old meaty role as he goes out in the field to become Bond's only aid from MI6. Again, not Bondian enough?
Licence to Kill saw the end of Dalton's tenure as Bond, legal issues between Danjaq and MGM/UA meant that no Bond movie would be made for another six years. By then Dalton had moved on to other work and was 51. It also marked the end of production duties for Cubby Broccoli, the final direction by John Glen (5 Bond films in total), Richard Maibaum's last script and the last performances by Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Moneypenney. One of the many misconceptions about the Dalton era is that Licence to Kill was a flop, it made $156 million worldwide, considerably down on The Living Daylights but more than A View to a Kill. A huge profit of over $100 million, this in spite of it being pitched against Batman and sequels to beloved American films by a studio head who had no idea how to market a film. The best actor to take on the role of Bond, Dalton's impact on the series cannot be overstated, he (rightly so) is very proud of his work in the two films and still talks very fondly of a role he respected beyond compare. 9/10
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