The James Bond series was a monumental series for me growing up and, as I planned on featuring one of the 20+ films in the series as a Key Movie, I just couldn’t choose. Since I can’t choose a single one, I am reviewing each and every Bond film continuing with today’s entry, Licence To Kill.
Welcome to Key Movies Of My Life James Bond Edition.
Today’s Key Movie:
After a drug cartel leader tortures Felix Leiter and kills the CIA agent’s new wife, Bond goes rogue and seeks revenge on behalf of his friend. On his own and without official assistance from the British Government, Bond must find a way to complete his mission at all costs. An action packed adventure as only James Bond can have, this is License To Kill.
Why this movie?
This is Timothy Dalton’s second and final Bond film but what sets this one apart is it has a much darker tone than all of the series so far. Most of the humor this series has held is mostly gone and in it’s place we have a hard hitting action film that is somewhat of a foreshadowing to the more recent entries with Daniel Craig. This is the 80’s action film answer to the James Bond series and, frankly, it works. This is a James Bond that finally shows the agent’s personal side, one that will protect his friends to the bitter end, even if it means giving everything up to do it.
I remember going to the theaters with my cousin to see this one. ’89 was a big year for me with the release of Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Back to the Future 2, Ghostbusters 2, Honey I shrank the kids and many more, so with a new Bond film to boot, you could say 1989 was a perfect year for movies. I left this film so excited and reinvigorated I had to dive in deeper and, while I had already watched many of the Bond films by this time, I made it a point to find and watch every Bond film to date, in order.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
For the first time in the series we get a chance to see more of Bond’s regular partner Felix Leiter (played by David Hedison), than ever before. For the course of the series, Leiter and Bond have worked together on a number of missions with the CIA agent always being in Bond’s corner when it counted. So, when Leiter’s new wife is killed and the agent is horribly tortured by a drug lord, Bond has no choice but to take revenge for his old friend. In many ways, this is Bond’s way to get revenge again for the death of his own wife, Tracy. The tragic event of Bond’s past is referenced after the wedding and serves as a bit of foreshadowing of it’s own.
The villain in this one is one of the best. We finally have an adversary who is not interested in world domination or government extortion, no, this is a down and dirty Drug Lord who has no qualms in getting what he wants to protect his empire. While he does have a master plan to grow this empire through clever means, he proves to be more than enough for Bond to contend with. Played by Robert Davi, Franz Sanchez is one of the most viscous adversaries yet and this gives us a chance to see Bond let loose for once, even resigning as a 00 agent in the process. Additionally, we get a chance to see a young Benecio Del Toro as Sanchez’ enforcer, Dario. Even at the younger age, Del Toro proves himself to be a solid actor and one of the best, and least gimmicky, Bond film Henchmen as well. Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Wayne Newton as Professor Joe Butcher. Newton plays an evangelist who helps Sanchez traffic his drugs. He is an odd choice for the film but I suspect this one was for the ladies as, for some reason, Newton was well liked by them in the 80’s.
Sure, Bond is on a vendetta mission and has little time for romance but, Much like the last film, this Bond film continues the trend started in the previous entry with Bond treating his female encounters with some measure of dignity. Yes, there is a little romance with Leiter’s partner Pam Bouvier, but this time it is really on her terms and just after she really proves she can handle herself in a fight. The other Female lead is Sanchez’ love interest and captive, Lupe Lemora (Talisa Soto). Lupe finds herself in a pretty bad situation but of course, like most of the women under the villains ’employ’, Lupe only wants to escape the clutches of her oppressor and sees 007 as the man to help her do just that. Needless to say, she and Bond share a moment as well.
As I mentioned above, Bond himself shows a much darker side than before and, for that, I think Dalton does not get the credit he deserves as a James Bond actor. This film really shows just how intense and hard hitting the actor (and character) can be making me really wish that Dalton had been given the chance to do a few more films. Sure, we would not have gotten the next film, my favorite in the Bond franchise, but I would still have loved to see what Dalton could have done with the role.
Even though Bond retires from service and has his licence to kill revoked by M, this would not be a Bond film without clever gadgets and devices. This time we get a good selection including an explosive alarm clock, explosive toothpaste and more. With the help of Q (Desmond Llewelyn) makes his return assisting Bond in an unofficial capacity. It is pretty great seeing him as one of Bond’s ultimate allies, even stating that, without Q-Branch, Bond would have been dead many times over. He isn’t wrong.
One thing I did find interesting is the inclusion of a new character named ‘Sharkey’, played by Frank McRae. ‘Sharkey’ is one of Bond and Leiter’s friends who runs a charter boat service in the keys. The interesting thing is that they could have used Quarrel Junior instead of creating a new character for this film as Quarrel Junior has a deeper connection to both Leiter and Bond than most characters. In my head cannon, Quarrel Jr just took on the name Sharkey so that he didn’t live under his father’s shadow. Sadly, Sharkey (or Quarrel Jr) didn’t last long…
As with every Bond film, there is a new Bond theme by a well known artist of the time. This time Gladys Knight takes on the theme with the title track License to Kill. While this isn’t the best in the series, it is a solid entry that really fits the hard hitting nature of the film. As usual, here it is.
All in all, this is a great entry to the Bond franchise and one that is well under appreciated. I have to believe that, should Dalton had been given additional films, he would have gone down as one of the most beloved lead actors in the franchise. While he may not have the animal magnetism Connery or even the younger Moore had, Dalton proves that Bond is more than just a pretty face, he is a bad ass agent as well.
OK, where do I get this movie?
and, as usual, the Trailer:
James Bond Returns in Goldeneye…
Late To The Game 4/25/2019
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