Director: John Glen
Cast: Timothy Dalton, Desmond Llewellyn, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Benicio del Toro, Talisa Soto
Plot: After assisting his old ally Felix Lieter and the CIA bring in drug baron Franz Sanchez, Bond attends Felix’s wedding. After bribing his way to an escape Sanchez takes revenge of Felix. Bond sets out against M’s orders to get revenge of Sanchez and destroy his empire.
Review: Much like in The Living Daylights, this outing sees Bond on a much darker journey then his previous adventures. The movie begins with some entertaining fare as Bond reunites with his long standing CIA contact Felix Leiter (a man whose gone through more changes in appearance than Bond himself) whilst on-route to Felix’s wedding. The two take a detour to raid a compound and take in South American drug baron Franz Sanchez. After Felix is married Bond is preparing to head home when Sanchez escapes from custody and takes revenge by murdering Felix’s bride and partially feeding the CIA agent to a shark. Going against orders Bond goes after Sanchez and his international operations, resulting in him having his Double-Oh status and license to kill revoked.
Although Leiter has never been an integral part of the franchise, functioning as mostly a name they can slap on an ally when Bond needs one without explanation, they do well to establish a strong relationship between the two during the opening scenes. Leiter goes from being a recurring bit part to a strong emotional hook very quickly and it forms a good launching point for a story that depicts Bond as going a bit more of the rails. Dalton plays the driven and merciless Bond better than most other actors who’ve donned the tux. He’s well supported by his rival love interests Carey Lowell as hard-nosed ex-CIA pilot Pam Bouvier and Talisa Soto as Sanchez’s abused girlfriend Lupe. Q also has a larger part in the film when he takes to the field to assist Bond, and it’s fun seeing the familiar face in a new setting.
Filling out the role of the bad guy is Robert Davi who is appropriately menacing in the role of Sanchez. The psychotic drug dealer doesn’t rely on gadgets and gimmicks but does provide a very real threat to Bond, as illustrated with some pretty cold hearted acts of violence on those he considers to betray him. Doing some of his dirty work is the flick-knife wielding Dario, played by a young Benicio Del Toro. Even at the time performer is under-used, only turning up for some memorable scenes.
What lets the film down is the lack of pacing. The story about Bond going off contract to hunt a dangerous drug baron is serviceable enough but the writers seem afraid of really taking the concept to any new territory. Everyone involved was so nervous about breaking formula that they even crowbar Q back in when Bond needs more gadgets to play with. As a result of the writing being a bit plain the pacing slows to a crawl between the bombastic action scenes as the characters really don’t do more than just talk about stuff.
The relationship between Bond, Lupe and Pam is very unusual, as Bond seems to be torn between the two. This is a pretty drastic deviation from the status quo as Bond often treats women with the same attitude as pens. Useful, fun, you’ve got your favorite but ultimately replaceable. When we get to the closing scene and Bond is trying to choose between the two different women he’s had sex with over the past few days it feels as though we missed something.
Moments like this suggest a pretty messed up attitude to sex.
Action-wise the film is pretty rad even if they don’t crop up often enough. The oil tanker chase scene at the conclusion of the film stands out as one of the best chases in the series with some pretty extreme stuff – like hoisting a rig onto two wheels to dodge a rocket – feels realistic enough to make things exciting. Unlike the story this production has not been afraid to push the boundaries in terms of violence. Early in the film we see Felix being chopped on by a shark and then Bond killing a henchmen by locking him in a tank full of maggots, which is just unsettling. Towards the end we get treated to Del Toro being fed slowly into a grinding machine in a very bloodied manner and a guy being impaled on the forks of a forklift truck inside the same minute. At times it really is a bit much for a series that has always been pretty bloodless (until Craig turned things around again).
Something that stands out is the scene at the end of the movie when Bond calls Lieter in hospital and Lieter seems to be pretty chuffed. For a guy whose new bride had been murdered and had a shark chew off his arms and legs he seemed to be in unusually good spirits.
Licence to Kill does half some strong moments in it, such as the action and the villains, but gets let down but the lack of an engaging, well paced narrative to tie it all together.
Score: FIVE outta TEN