May 25, 2024

BOND #16: LICENCE TO KILL (1989)

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Timothy Dalton’s sophomore performance as James Bond is an improvement over his first. He seems more confident and comfortable as his more serious version of the British agent. Although there were still a few cringe worthy moments when he had to deliver those silly one-liner jokes which are more up Roger Moore’s sleeve, and his unconvincing act of having the roaming eye for his leading ladies. Fortunately these were few and far apart. No, Timothy Dalton is more at home and believable as a no nonsense British agent with a licence to kill, and I for one am grateful that we have left the overly campy Roger Moore style behind. 

Licence To Kill is my personal favorite Bond movie after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service so far. This is possibly because it feels like the “least Bond like” movie of the lot. For a start, it was refreshing to have an opening gambit stunt that actually is part of the overall story unlike many of the predecessors whereby the opening stunt is very much a standalone sequence with nothing or little related to the film. The story this time is also far more down to earth and does not involve any end of the world scenario involving some evil villain. This time Bond actually goes rogue as he disobeys orders from his boss as he chose revenge for a friend over duty. The villain is a powerful Mexican drug lord whom Bond has to find a way to bring justice to alone. Well, almost … as he is soon assisted by a beautiful freelance informer, and the ever faithful M who conveniently takes leave to check on Bond if he needed any help with his gadgets.

Robert Davi’s villain is ruthless and corrupt and he seem to have the face that is custom made to play bad guys. He is supported by a very young looking Benicio Del Toro as one of his henchmen, and Wayne Newton as a corrupt and saucy TV preacher. Wayne Newton’s part may have been small but he stole the few scenes he was in, lending an air of well needed humour in the midst of all the action. I also liked that the two leading ladies here are beginning to show more brains and brawn than just another pretty face, something that reflects the evolution of the series as it slowly moves away from its sexist tendencies. Even smoking which was rampant in the early Bond movies, is frowned upon here with a surgent general warning about the dangers of smoking flashed during the end credits roll. 

A young Benicio Del Toro on the right!

The title song by Gladys Knight is a safe a familiar sounding Bond theme song. There is even a bonus love song at the end credits, “If You Asked Me To” sung by Patti LaBelle which was a nice version as opposed to the Celine Dion hit version that we are used to listen to. 

All in Licence To Kill to me is definitely ending up as one of my favorite Bond movies. I liked the more down to earth and darker feel of this entry, and thought the flow and action were well paced. Timothy Dalton made Bond behave like a secret agent instead of a stand up comedian or clown. I dare say he is even better than Sean Connery who tended to play Bond a bit too much of a cocky sexist with also too much of a devil may care attitude. It is pity that this was also Timothy Dalton’s swan song as 007. Apparently Pierce Bosnan was the producers’ first choice after Roger Moore but he wasn’t available as he was busy doing the TV series Remington Steel. So Timothy Dalton was really second choice. After Licence to Kill, there was a lengthy law suit between the producers and MGM which lasted 5 years. By the time Bond #16 Goldeneye was ready to be made, Timothy had turned it role down and Brosnan was available!  The rest is history …

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