Over the last several months, members of the CBn Forum have been reviewing all the James Bond 007 films in the “Countdown Threads“. If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register. Now here are some selected reviews, varying in opinion, of Licence To Kill…
‘Licence To Kill’ by A Kristatos
Licence To Kill is a very good movie, but still ranks relatively low on my list of Bond films due to the darkness of the film, and especially its graphic violence at times. While not even close to the brutality shown in today’s films, the violence is still tough to take, especially for a Bond movie.
Licence To Kill does have maybe the most realistic plot of any Bond movie, with Bond infiltrating the drug circle of Franz Sanchez, outstandingly portrayed by Robert Davi, in order to revenge the brutal treatment of CIA buddy Felix Leiter. He portrays Sanchez with such a realistic charm, that it is almost hard not to like the guy, even though everyone knows that he is a cold, ruthless killer. Benicio Del Toro gives us a glimpse of many of his future roles with his portrayal of Sanchez’s henchman. Anthony Zerbe also does a nice job playing Milton Krest, another member of the Sanchez circle. His ultimate demise, though very similar to the death of Kananga in Live And Let Die, is far more gruesome looking, and thereby typifies how violent this movie is in comparison to earlier Bond films. Finally, Sanchez’s mistress Lupe Lamora and Bond’s CIA assistant Pam Bouvier (played by Talisa Soto and Carey Lowell respectively) only rank in the middle of the pack as far as Bond girls go.
I do reject the fact that many consider this a Bond film completely devoid of humor whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that Dalton does display a great sense of humor, particularly during the initial capture of Sanchez during the PTS, and during several scenes involving him and Bouvier. Q’s most extended appearance in a Bond movie to date was also designed to add some comic relief to the film. And an appearance by Wayne Newton further adds to the humor, with even Sanchez himself adding some dark humor throughout. Still, the dark tone and violence of this film push this movie down on my list of Bond rankings, though the dark humor, great plot and terrific acting do make this movie well worth watching.
‘Licence To Kill’ by DLibrasnow
In the mid-1980s one of the biggest shows on television was Miami Vice with its cool clothes, fast cars and rocking soundtrack. Capitalizing on this wave with great success were movies such as the first Lethal Weapon in 1986. The ‘war on drugs’ petered out following the end of the Reagan administration in 1989 and people turned their attention to other areas. All except the producers of the Bond movies who decided to cash in on a movie craze that had already ended and were subsequently seen to produce a dead turkey to the summer audiences of 1989.
Everything else seemed to work in their favor. There were some big movies also opening that should have guaranteed a healthy life for the picture (the tentpole theory that dictates that a glut of big movies means big business for everyone) and the darker and more gloomy revenge storyline fit the mood of a country post Iran-gate. Yet the movie was a disaster and for the next five years the claim that Timothy Dalton had made during production that it would be the last 007 picture (quoted in the 1989 issue of Bondage) appeared prophetic.
So, what went wrong? First of all we had an umpopular Bond actor in Timothy Dalton. Two years earlier audiences had turned out with a sense of curiosity to check out his first movie (the quite-excellent Cold War thriller The Living Daylights), the producers (as acknowledged by Director John Glen in the ITV Premiere coverage) had to find some reason to lure the audience back other than a new lead actor – and they failed.
Movie audiences wanted a fun Bond movie with a fast pace and more humor (a need understood by producers of the lighter sequel Lethal Weapon 2) and not the dark foreboding tale that was Licence To Kill. They rejected Dalton and turned their back on 007 that summer.
Licence To Kill is too dark and its also joyless. The story itself is okay, and has some interesting points but there is no chemistry between Bond and either of the leading ladies, a distinct lack of humor and Daltons acting feels forced and unconvincing. Robert Davi underplays his drug kingpin role and only Benicio Del Toro is interesting to watch, we even have an unwelcome appearance by Q on the scene (I never thought I would say that) that does not fit the story very well. Its not a bad movie, its just not a very entertaining picture and its easy to see why its message of death and destruction was rejected by movie audiences. Many of those members of the movie-going public interviwed at the time expressed an dislike of Dalton and bemoaned the retirement of Roger Moore four years earlier. It was a failed experiment but better than three of the Brosnan efforts and two of the Roger Moore pictures.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Double-Oh Agent
After 15 official films, EON decided to do something different with #16, a change which would be more in line to suit the particular talents of the fourth James Bond, Timothy Dalton. What they got was a tightly written revenge thriller filled with lots of action but one that is generally regarded as having failed to excite critics and fans. What I think, however, is that they captured Ian Fleming’s creation the best of any movie in the series and I consider it to be, along with Octopussy, the most underrated films in the entire canon.
The reasons for Licence To Kill‘s box office failure, I believe, are three-fold. 1) Audiences were not prepared for an ultra-serious James Bond, especially in the wake of the Roger Moore era. 2) A lot of strong films came out around the same time as Licence To Kill such as Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and Lethal Weapon 2. And 3) the publicity and advertising campaign for Licence To Kill was horrendous–easily the worst of the series–and capped off by an extremely uninspiring and un-Bond like movie poster. All of which served to undermine a truly great film. But on to the review.
The bad: For all it’s greatness, I will admit that Dalton’s Bond was probably a bit too serious in the role as he focuses all his energies on achieving his goal. However, this is a revenge movie as he goes after the man who maimed his best friend so it is perfectly understandable. This is the same type of intensity we should have gotten for Diamonds Are Forever, at least from the point when Bond learns that the man who killed his wife Tracy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is still alive. Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora is pretty, but her acting is not so good while Caroline Bliss’ Moneypenny is given little to do other than hold back tears. Bond also gets a little repetitive in continually telling Pam and Q to go home while the truck wheelie is a little difficult to believe.
The good: Robert Davi is fantastic as Franz Sanchez, my favorite villain in the series. Just by looking at him, you know he means business. He is a definite threat to Bond–probably second of all the villains in the series to GoldenEye‘s 006. I love how Bond uses Sanchez’s strength (valuing loyalty over money) and using it against him. Benicio Del Toro is terrific as Dario. It is his second major role which gave a hint at the stardom that was ahead of him. The other henchmen are great too, in what is possibly the best collection of villains, top to bottom, of any film in the series. Alejandro Bracho as Perez, Guy de Saint Cyr as Braun, Don Stroud as Heller, Anthony Zerbe as Milton Krest, Everett McGill as Ed Killifer, and Anthony Starke as William Truman-Lodge–all give memorable performances. And what can I say about Prof. Joe Butcher? As played by Wayne Newton, he steals every scene he’s in, bless his heart. He’s very funny and effective in his role.
David Hedison makes a nice return as Felix Leiter and he delivers in a great scene when Sanchez feeds him to the shark. Carey Lowell is beautiful, sexy, and fun as Pam Bouvier, my all-time favorite Bond girl. She’s tough and can take care of herself without competing with Bond. She works well with Dalton and the two have good chemistry. Lastly, we have long-time Bond regulars Robert Brown as Miles “M” Messervy and Desmond Llewelyn as Geoffrey “Q” Boothroyd returning and both are great. Brown gets his best scene as “M” during his meeting with Bond on Key West while Llewelyn gets his most screen time of any film in the series and it’s a joy to see him every minute. Good ol’ Uncle Q.
The plot is good as is Bond’s infiltration of the villain’s organization. In addition, Sanchez’s drug smuggling plan and the front for ordering the drugs is clever. Michael Kamen’s score is different but serviceable as is Gladys Knight’s title song although with a title like Licence To Kill, I have no idea why the producers went with a ballad instead of another rock’n’roll song such as A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights by Duran Duran and a-ha, respectively. To me that would have made more sense.
The stunts are incredible in this film. From Bond roping the plane in the pre-titles sequence to his underwater escape from Krest’s frogmen to waterskiing behind the plane and climbing aboard before takeoff, it’s all good. However, my favorite bits are those involving the tanker truck chase, a sequence of (trunk) stunts that have never been surpassed or equalled. And the fight with Sanchez at the climax is particularly gritty with the villain meeting a suitably appropriate end at its conclusion.
Virtually everything works in Licence To Kill. It’s fun and suspenseful and as close as one can get in the films to Ian Fleming’s literary James Bond–and that is high praise indeed. The Living Daylights may have used it as its tagline, but it is in Licence To Kill that really shows Bond at his most dangerous.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Tiin007
Licence To Kill would have to be my least favorite Bond film. Granted, the scene in which Bond and M argue in Hemingway House was one of the best scenes in the entire series. It featured superb acting both by Dalton and by Brown. It was priceless watching M take away Bond’s licence to kill (hence the title) because he was turning what Sanchez did to Leiter into a personal vendetta. It was a truly brilliant scene. However, that scene was just about the only good part of Licence To Kill.
First off, the plot. It had a good premise (Bond taking revenge on what was done to Leiter), but the idea wasn’t used to its full potential. We only had one decent confrontation with the man who almost killed Bond’s best friend. We never saw Bond really lose control (except for maybe when he gave M his resignation). I understand that the villain being a drug lord was meant to be more down to earth and realistic than previous Bond villains, but that’s not what we need in a Bond film. We need grand villains with diabolical plots, not some con artist trying to make a quick buck. This slowed down the film, making Bond going after him pretty pointless. Another deficiency in the plot was the locations. We expect exotic locations from a Bond movie, not dull ones that we can find within a couple miles (or kilometers) of our own homes. Florida had great potential, but the producers didn’t show us the true beauty the state(or the beaches) has to offer. They only showed us plain streets. Then there’s the fictional city of Isthmus. If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be boring. It was a random dump in the middle of Latin America where Sanchez ran his bank, casino, and hotel. It had nothing unique or interesting. The most important thing in a movie is a good plot, and Licence To Kill doesn’t have one.
Another problem with Licence To Kill is the climax. Instead of the typical major battle in the villain’s lair, we get a stupid tanker chase. There are only so many things one can do in such a limited setting. The action is bad, which causes a lack of excitement. A Bond film needs a spectacular climax filled with attention-grabbing battles and tons of explosions (not the tanker truck kind).
Licence To Kill didn’t have any interesting villains. As previously stated, Sanchez needed a better plot. His “friendly” attitude doesn’t come close to that of Scaramanga, Drax, Kristatos, Kamal Kahn, or even Zorin. Then there’s Krest. He is so plain and boring that it seemed like he had no personality. Dario was supposed to be menacing. At first, he seemed kind of cool. But by the end of the movie, I found myself wondering, “what exactly does this guy add to the movie?” The biggest mistake regarding villains was Heller. His strategic advice made Sanchez seem incompetent and stupid. He made me feel like Sanchez was incapable of thinking for himself.
The Bond girls (or women, to be politically correct) weren’t particularly engaging. Pam Bouvier’s tough-guy attitude made her unappealing. Bond women should be sexy. As for Lupe, her hate of Sanchez made me wonder why she didn’t leave him long ago. Even after Sanchez killed the man she slept with at the beginning, Lupe never tried to escape. What would she have done had Bond not shown up?
In short, Licence To Kill is just plain boring. It has a bad plot, a dull climax, lame villains, and unappealing women. If it weren’t for the scene in which M revokes Bond’s licence to kill, the movie would’ve been a complete failure.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Double-Oh-Zero
Not a horrid Bond movie by any means, but one where it could have been so much better. I can admire the fact that they tried to go back to a gritty, Flemingesque setting, but you can tell that films like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard had a hand in crafting the film and how it would look. Robert Davi is pretty good as Sanchez, but it would have been nice if Dalton blinked every now and then. Pam Bouvier was also pretty forgettable, as was most of the storyline itself. However, is some great stuff here, such as the tanker chase, the pretitles, and the return of Felix and his role in the film. The signature gun was also a nice touch. Other than these, the film sort of burns itself out by the end, taking the seriousness overboard and not having much fun while doing it.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Publius
In Licence To Kill, we find James Bond embarking on his simplest, most personal mission yet. Not for king, not for country, but for vengeance. After international drug lord Franz Sanchez maims Bond’s close friend Felix Leiter and murders Felix’s wife on their wedding day, he sets out to avenge them. His private vendetta is not endorsed by Her Majesty’s Secret Service, however, and 007’s licence to kill is subsequently revoked, whereupon an angry but calculating Bond promptly proceeds to embark on his quest for revenge regardless, now outside the law as a rogue agent.
Timothy Dalton evokes a powerful sense of deadliness and danger here. He is cold, dark, ruthless, and borderline sinister. Dalton was always perfect in the mantle of a government spy, and somehow manages to be even more perfect in the role of a vigilante secret agent. His reaction to seeing the dead body of Della Leiter, whom he gently cradles in his hands, clearly and emotionally dredges up old memories of Bond’s own wife Tracy being murdered on his wedding day so many years ago, which provides a glimpse at what Dalton might have been like in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which he had been screen tested for some twenty years earlier. What’s more, Bond is also forced to rely almost solely on his innate wits and intellect, and so finds himself exacting his revenge by using the loyalty that Sanchez prides himself and his entire empire on as his primary weapon. Only Dalton could have executed it so perfectly.
This film is also perhaps the finest ensemble of actors ever to grace a Bond film. Robert Davi is brilliant as monstrous drug lord Sanchez, whose trust in his inner circle proves to be his undoing. Benicio del Toro is fantastic as henchman Dario, although more screentime would have been wonderful. As for the Bond girls, Carey Lowell as CIA agent Pam Bouvier is classy, sexy, and tough, and Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora is beautiful and exotic, albeit a weak actress. David Hedison makes a welcome return as Felix Leiter, reprising his character from Live And Let Die. And Q’s role, played as always by the delightful Desmond, is by far greater here than ever, never becoming a bore, and for once not providing gadgets so much as actual involvement in the mission as a field operative. Aside from being as helpful as ever, Q also serves to make for touch of lightheartedness in an otherwise very rough, very serious film. Wayne Newton also provides some enjoyable comic relief, as does Davi’s Sanchez on a few occasions.
The action is among the greatest in the entire series, yet realistic, in keeping with the down-to-earth tone of the movie. The aerial pre-title sequence, whereby Bond must attach an airplane to a military helicopter, both in flight, is one of the better starts to a Bond adventure. Bond’s escape from the ship of snivelling Milton Krest is quite possibly the most exhilirating escape sequence ever, with Bond having to rely on his natural faculties and resources to free himself from a brief but well-executed underwater battle, only to find himself in an even thicker predicament as he skis after a seaplane while enemies gun him down and as the 007 theme twangs in the background, before ending up in a mid-air struggle to wrest control of the plane carrying millions of dollars in drug money. Pure, unbridled excitement, and simply Bond, and Dalton, at his best. The final action sequence aboard the gasoline tankers in the Mexican desert is arguably the greatest high-octane showdown to date, and Timothy Dalton only served to elevate its brilliance. Spectacular explosions, non-stop suspense, and endless thrills, and even a little bit of humor, contrary to popular belief, make this one of the greatest James Bond moments of all time.
The title song, sung by Gladys Knight, is one of the finest entries in the series, sampling a bit of the Goldfinger theme but reworked into a brilliant, luxurious soul ballad, and has some of the best lyrics in a Bond song ever, perfectly capturing the essence of 007 almost as well as Timothy Dalton ever did. Patti Labelle’s “If You Asked Me To” also makes for a solid ending theme, contrasting masterfully against the backdrop of a gritty, hard-edged storyline about personal vengeance. The music and score also blend in quite naturally with the lovely scenery and atmosphere of the Florida Keys and Central America.
All in all, Licence To Kill is a quintessential James Bond masterpiece. It breaks from the mold more than any other, bringing the series back to reality but providing more enjoyment than ever. It’s the perfect balance of lead actor, main villain, supporting actors, plot, music, and locations, a mixture never before seen in a Bond film and not since replicated.
‘Licence To Kill’ by tdalton
After establishing himself very well as James Bond in The Living Daylights, the next Bond movie was written to fit Dalton’s style even more. This brought about the most serious Bond movie since From Russia With Love, and, arguably, one of the better ones in the franchise’s history.
Dalton is simply the best actor that has ever portrayed Bond on the big screen. He brings nuances to the character that no other actor (except for maybe Sean Connery). When Felix is viciously mamed by Sanchez, the audience really feels Bond’s pain because Dalton delivers his performance so believably that it’s almost scary.
The idea behint Licence To Kill is very simple. Bond becomes a rogue agent and goes after Sanchez for revenge. This was a fresh new idea at the time, and it took the series in a direction it had never been in before.
The Bond girls are especially strong in this outing. Cary Lowell as Pam Bouvier is simply stunning, as well as Talisa Soto as Sanchez’s girlfriend.
Robert Davi’s Sanchez, however, often steals the show. He is one of the most brutal and vicious villians that Bond has ever faced off against. He is just such a strong character that he commands attention whenever he is on the screen.
The way that Bond dispatches the minor villians is also one of the high points of the film. Bond does not kill them himself. Instead, he infiltrates Sanchez’s organization and convinces him that his people are not being loyal to him, causing Sanchez to kill them for Bond. This tactic is very well executed in the film and it shows that Bond can be an actual spy rather than an action hero that runs around killing people.
Licence To Kill is a very good film, and most of this is because of Dalton and Davi. Both of Dalton’s films are in my top 5, and that’s simply because Dalton is a great actor and his rendition of James Bond is the best of all the others. Licence To Kill is a great entry to the Bond franchise.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Scottlee
Licence To Kill:
- Nice variation on the usual Bond film ; attempts to do something different and succeeds, yet still retaining crucial Bond elements.
- Timothy Dalton looks mean and very Bond-like. I’m a big Dalton fan.
- Great to see Q get a bigger run-out than normal.
- Sanchez and Del Toro’s character are great villains, with Prof Joe Butcher entertaining as one of those mini villains. Even Killifer is good.
- The ending is great, as good an ending you can get without using a villain’s lair.
- Although Lupe Lamora is a great Bond girl, not so sure about Pam Bouvier…
- One of the weaker pre-credits, with nothing particularly clever about it.
- Music is ok, but not as memorable compared with some of the other scores in the series.
‘Licence To Kill’ by trumanlodge89
This is about as close to perfect a Bond film can get, as far as I’m concerned. The action “set pieces” are original and very well done. The capture of Sanchez in the teaser is very slick, and I’m really surprised it doesn’t get more recognition. The climactic tanker chase is just as good. Gritty, thrilling, and an awesome variation on the “normal” Bond car chases.
Timothy Dalton really comes into the role into this film. He has the internal conflict of James Bond that Pierce Brosnan wishes had. He has the edge that Moore never had. He only lacking the humor of Moore, but I am OK with the break from it. This movie is far more realistic than anything Moore ever did and it passes off as a much tighter movie. To me, Dalton IS Bond, whereas Moore is Roger Moore playing Bond.
Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto are both beautiful, and Lowell is probably the most underrated Bond girl in the series. Tough, smart, and for 85% of the movie, she is Bond’s equal. She is integral to Bond’s success. My only problem is the unnecessary additon of the love story between Bond and Bouvier. I know it is a Bond film, but I don’t think Pam Bouvier would’ve been jelous of Lupe sleeping with James. As an operative for the CIA, shouldn’t she understand that spys use whatever means necessary (at least in Bond’s universe)?
Robert Davi is my second favorite villian in the series (behind Auric Goldfinger). His portrayal of Franz Sanchez is perfect. Intimidating and charasmatic, he lets Bond into his inner circle, in one of Bond’s finest spy tactic. Sanchez is completely unsuspecting, so why not go right under his nose? This angle is so brilliant and plays out perfectly.
My only problem with this film is the ending. Bond hunts down and kills Sanchez, (not to mention destroy his organization) and comes very close to dying himself, and does this for his best friend, Felix. Wouldn’t Bond be by his bedside. Those two are now both widowers, I would’ve been were much satisfied with a more melonchly ending to the film. Why would Bond be at a party? The whole film is very somber, the ending should be the same way.
Shot entirely in Mexico, the movie has a very Miami Vice feel to it. But I don’t mind. Miami Vice fashion was at least very fun, and the colors of this movie were a nice change from the visually drab The Living Daylights.
Licence To Kill: Highly Underrated, and Very Very Good.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Qwerty
This film isn’t often in my 18th ranked position of the James Bond 007 films as my rankings seem to always change. The film, however, just isn’t one of those all time classics. I like Timothy Dalton as Bond, and his take on the Bond is one I’m relatively fine with, but he gave his better performance in The Living Daylights. While he was deadly serious, I like to see a little humor and some light-heartedness, which The Living Daylights seemed to balance better.
Pam Bouvier seems really lacklustre at times also. I don’t think it’s Carey Lowell acting, but the character itself. She seems pretty bland at times, seeming to just want to appear tough and resourceful, but never being a Bond girl/Bond woman. They’ve just had better before and after.
Sanchez was, admittingly, a very good villain though. He was a challenge for Bond. So…not the best Bond film, but certainly not a horrible one.
‘Licence To Kill’ by Mr. Malcolm
So, Eon are gearing up for Timothy Dalton’s second outing as Bond, after the excellent The Living Daylights. Mr Dalton has expressed a desire to play Bond in a much grittier style, closer to Ian Fleming’s original vision. There were a number of things the film-makers could have done:
- 1. Made another film in the style of The Living Daylights.
- 2. Made a gritty, dark film with dry wit instead of broad comedy. Like a novel.
- 3. Made another standard Bond film…Now with 50% extra violence and swearing! And drugs too!
Well, we know what happened. Licence To Kill ultimately isn’t really a bad film; in fact, it’s pretty good. Unfortunately, in terms of tone, it’s just far too uneven to be a great one. And while Die Another Day suffered from a similar problem, at least it had the sense not to pretend it was anything other than a big, silly, fun film for all the family. Licence To Kill on the other hand, apart from the odd moment, just never quite gels as a whole, at least until the final battle. But we’ll come to that later.
Right off the bat, the film proudly proclaims its new style, with producer Michael G Wilson saying the word ‘bastard’ in the opening few lines, followed by Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi, who’s great here) and his friends catching his ladyfriend Lupe at it with another guy, proceeding to have said guy’s heart ripped out (thankfully offscreen), and whipping Lupe. It’s just too much, too soon, and it just feels forced. The whipping of Lupe feels especially gratuitous; Fleming (the same man who wrote That Scene in Casino Royale) knew in The Hildebrand Rarity to leave this little bit to the imagination, where it works much more effectively.
Anyway, Bond and Felix turn up, and proceed to capture Sanchez in one of the more underrated PTS stunts. Yes, Tim does look silly dangling out the helicopter in a grey suit, but that is a real plane being captured by a helicopter. Where’s yer CGI surfing now? Naturally, Sanchez does get out almost immediately, but we’ll come back to that, as we’ve got a wedding to go to now, and a deus ex machina to equip Bond with! Accordingly, Mr and Mrs Leiter do just that. It’s good to see David Hedison back as Felix, and Priscilla Barnes makes Della very sweet…
…so the following scenes, where they are mutilated by a shark, and raped and murdered respectively, are appropriately shocking (thankfully, Della’s fate is kept offscreen). And thanks to Dalton, Bond’s discovery of them both is a genuinely distressing moment. Unfortunately, now that Bond’s motivation for revenge has been set up, the cool, collected and methodical secret agent we know and love looses it a bit. In due course, he gets his revenge on Killifer, who betrayed Leiter, is relieved of his licence to kill (Robert Brown is appropriately annoyed here, although I do wonder how Bernard Lee would have played this part), knocks M over and runs off. Well, if you are resigning, may as well make the most of it!
Anyway, Bond then proceeds to disrupt Sanchez’s activities in Florida, along the way making contact with Lupe. I must admit, having two full love interests in the film (the second of whom we meet shortly after) is a bit much. It would also have been much more satisfying watching Lupe as the main interest; watching her grow in confidence and then helping Bond to take Sanchez down would have been much more satisfying than watching the awful Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier argue with Bond half the time, before being reduced to a blubbering heap. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back to the Wavekrest. Even if his second mate in the course of the film has been killed, would Bond really run out into the open and harpoon the man responsible in front of a whole bunch of other enemies? Still, the resulting stunt is rather cool, and it does actually set up an important plot point later. Indeed, the action scenes feel fairly well integrated into the plot in Licence To Kill, rather than just being bolted on the outside. Aaaaaaaaanyway, Bond then goes to meet up with Pam Bouvier, Felix’s last contact with Sanchez.
Note that Pam Bouvier is basically the 80’s’ stereotype of what a strong woman should be: a tough-talking, aggressive, butch bitch type (she also can’t act, but that’s by the by), who is really just a scared little girl. Compare her with a more recent ‘Bond’s equal’ women, namely Jinx, who has to be all that (apart, perhaps, from the scared little girl bit) AND slutty. Which is really more sexist? Discuss.
As well as Ms Bouvier, we also get to meet Benicio Del Toro! Which is always good. This is followed by the infamous bar-room brawl. A lot of people don’t like this scene, calling it ‘un-Bondlike,’ which I can understand. Still, the idea of it is quite fun in a subversive sort of way, so I’ll forgive it. Having met and had their first (of many) arguments, Bond and Ms Bouvier head off to Isthmus City, where Bond, having calmed down a bit, makes himself known to Sanchez. Why make up a location? Would it really have been so much trouble to set it in Mexico or somewhere else in Latin America (Buenos Aires would have been nice)? This is probably the point that we lost the travelogue element of the films, which I’d always loved in the older ones. Even Live And Let Die, which featured a made-up country, had New Orleans and New York to fall back on. I do miss this aspect of the series, and look forward to the day it returns. Hopefully Casino Royale will return us to the glory days of Bond abroad.
We also get to meet Q here, for his longest appearance in any film in the series. While his scenes are fun, and it is good to see the great Desmond Llewelyn get a meatier part, said scenes are just too light and humourous for the overall dark tone of the picture. But they’re not nearly as jarring as what happens next…
Bond attempts to kill Sanchez, which fails, but not before getting attacked and captured by Hong Kong narcotics agents, who also happen to be working with MI6. Sanchez, thinking that they tried to kill him, attacks their hideout and brutally massacres them. Even against the rest of the film, this feels forced and gratuitous, especially after the Q scenes. I mean, I’m no prude when it comes to violence, but it just comes across as unpleasant here, especially the Chinese woman getting shot in the breasts. Also, why does Sanchez not recognise Bond from the PTS? He must have seen him, surely? No matter, he trusts him now, which effectively give Bond free reign to mess with his activities, which is just as well, as Sanchez is armed with stolen missiles and has disrupted Pam’s attempts to retrieve them. Oops. In the process of this, Krest gets framed by Bond (that plot point set up earlier) and popped wide open in a decompression chamber. A particularly nasty death, actually…or it would be if it wasn’t filmed in such an over-the-top manner that I wasn’t laughing my bum off. To be fair, as a bit of cartoon violence, it’s actually a good bit of comic relief after the unpleasantness with the Chinese agents (I’m sick, but not that sick!). I’m just not sure that John Glen and the producers intended it that way…
And thus, eventually, we get to the climax, which really saves the film. First things first, say what you will about Wayne Newton, I love the idea of a Bond villain using a televangelist as a front. It’s such a wonderfully subversive idea, and the film could have done with some more of this sort of thing. Then, Benicio Del Toro gets a fitting send-off with the cocaine grinder. And then, we get treated to the astonishing tanker chase. This is what Bond films are all about, and it’s worth reiterating my point about the PTS: this is all real, no CGI (not that I’m aware of, anyway). And the tanker popping up on two wheels to dodge a missile? Magic. Seriously. All this leaves Bond and Sanchez bloodied, wounded and (in Sanchez’s case at least) covered in petrol. Yes, the lighter is a bit of a deus ex machina, but it’s done so well, who cares? The look on Bond’s face, the close up of the inscription on the lighter…I can’t think of a more grimly satisfying scene in the series. Especially not with as big a bastard as Sanchez.
Which just leaves the film time to balls it all up again, with a ludicrously happy ending (Felix is fine! Bond’s got his job back! That fish is winking at Bond and Pam in the pool!) before the end credits. Which basically sums up the problem with Licence To Kill. You’ve just had the villain die a truly horrific death (deserved, admittedly), why is everyone so cheerful now?
So a good film, yes. A great one, no. Which is a shame, as Licence To Kill could have been great, but for the film-makers’ apparent need to follow the formula too closely, retaining some elements which were too lightweight, while bringing in some new ones that were just too dark. Still, Dalton, Davi, Del Toro and Llewelyn are always worth watching, and there are enough good scenes to make the film worthwhile.
As for whether or not Licence To Kill rips off Miami Vice? I don’t know, since I never actually watched it. Honest!