Timothy Dalton’s run as James Bond ends almost as soon as it began with Licence to Kill, a movie far more like a generic revenge thriller than any kind of Bond or spy film. Does that make it a bad film? Nope! It’s a fun time killer, but it’s not what I put on if I fancy a Bond film… Let’s take a look!
James Bond relinquishes his licence to kill, disobeys his orders and goes on a mission of revenge when his best friend Felix’s wife is killed by drug baron Franz Sanchez…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“-and then you insert this part in your anus.” “I … see. How will this help me take down Sanchez?” “Oh, yes… Good point, 007. Let’s move on shall we?”
As I said in the opening paragraph, this is not a Bond film in most ways you think of a Bond film, very few gadgets, no special cars or espionage, just tough bad ass’s friend’s wife is killed and it’s time to go off the books and kill … pretty much everyone even slightly tied to the drug baron who was responsible. I mean Q does appear, off the record, but his only real gadget beyond a quick gag or two is a sniper rifle that looks like a video recorder. That’s it.
Timothy Dalton is a good stern anti-hero here, ignoring his orders in order to get some revenge. Two scenes stand out in my head related to him alone, and that’s when he has Sanchez in his sniper rifle scope and says “Watch the birdie, you BASTARD.” to himself, for some reason, and when he’s dangling over a mincer and female CIA agent Pam Bouvier arrives and asks if he’s okay, and he simply replies “Turn the bloody machine off!”. Basically, Timothy Dalton swearing in some capacity made me chuckle, and I don’t know why. Anyway, he’s a good tough action hero, which is what the role required this time. No attempted Roger Moore quips here!
Carey Lowell as the aforementioned CIA agent Pam Bouvier is good. She does her job well and has to put up with Bond being a male chauvinist arse. The sheer amount of times Bond kept telling her to stay behind and that he “can handle it from here” drove me crazy, and I’m a viewer. I guess that goes to show I grew to like Pam Bouvier, if nothing else.
…. Pretty much this, yeah.
Robert Davi as the previously mentioned drug baron Franz Sanchez is also really good in his role, so smug and confident in everything he does, you really do look forward to him being taken down a few notches… and then killed. Scenes where Bond is manipulating him into killing his own men while pretending to be a hitman were great.
Add in a fresh-faced Benicio del Toro as henchman Dario (who gets minced just moments before the “Turn the bloody machine off!” moment) and David Hedison as a very likeable version of Felix Leiter and you have a great cast for a good old fashioned action film.
The other thing you get in good old fashioned action films is … action! Licence to Kill has this covered too. A shootout in a warehouse, undersea / harpoon battles, a large brawl in a bar, a hidden base explosion, and a long car / truck chase that ends in more large fiery explosions. It’s all very entertaining, in a simple way, and looks very nice in HD.
The smuggest drug baron you’ll ever see.
The only major thing that comes to mind is Talisa Soto as Sanchez’s mistreated love interest Lupe Lamora. She was a bit of a throwback is being pretty much useless and all about putting her hands on Bond, all with a dodgy accent. I mean, it was funny watching this so soon after having looked at the two Mortal Kombat films, because as flawed as all hell as they are, Soto couldn’t be playing a more different character (also Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays an undercover cop briefly. A lot of MK in this film, really…) Basically, I’m just glad Bond picks Carey rather than Lupe for his pre-end-credits shag
Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), a corrupt American who runs Sanchez front Wavekrest Marine Research is a little too cartoonish for the feel of this film. It feels like he should be in a Moore or even late Connery Bond film, but here he stood out. I did like his death, having his head exploded by depressurisation, THAT felt in line with this film’s tone… There is also a fake preacher that is part of another Sanchez front, but he’s fun in a stupid way, again sort of feels out of place. Plus twice he’s screwed over by Pam and repeats the same gag of saying “Bless you” or whatever the phrase was. It was funny the first time, less the second… because it was the exact same gag!
Apart from that though, very little to complain about, again, unless you’re judging this as a Bond film rather than as a film by itself. In that case you can say it went in a very serious direction, and it that isn’t your thing, then I don’t blame you if you list this as your least favourite, or at least one of them. I like it by its own merit, though.
“Sod this, Brosnan can do it.”
Licence to Kill is a great 80s thriller, full of explosions and villains you want to see die in some special way, all while Timothy Dalton acts like a one-man army. It may not be up your alley if you’re just into Bond films, but it you’re in the mood for an old fashioned action film, you can do far, far worse than sticking this film on.