Anthony's Film Review
Licence to Kill (1989)
A real gilt-edged Bond that pushes the envelope...
Licence to Kill is notable for plenty of reasons. It is the first James Bond movie to be given a PG-13 rating in the U.S., a step above the PG rating that every preceding Bond film has received. Originally, it was so violent that it would have been rated R, but it was trimmed to avoid this rating. Also, James Bond does not go on a mission given to him by M. Instead, the mission he goes on is personal. When drug czar Franz Sanchez mutilates Felix Leiter as revenge for putting him behind bars, Bond abandons his orders to avenge his friend. The result stands out as one of the darkest films in the Bond series.
Timothy Dalton was a real tough agent in The Living Daylights, and he is even more ruthless and serious in this one. The anger in his face when he fights or shoots someone indicates that he means business. He is not the only brilliant actor here. Robert Davi portrays Franz Sanchez, one of the best villains in the Bond series. He has a mixture of both charisma and menace that sticks in one's mind. Carey Lowell plays CIA agent Pam Bouvier, another one of those Bond girls who is not a helpless damsel in distress. The rest of the cast is good, too, including Talisa Soto as Lupe and David Hedison in his second appearance as Felix Leiter.
Bond's mission is not related in any way to the Cold War as with some of his previous missions. In fact, the Cold War had already ended around this time. Still, there is no end to the threats around the world that Bond can defeat, and here, he gets involved in the drug war involving South America. It's still an interesting thing for Bond to tackle. Every Bond film attempts to relate to its current era. Licence to Kill is no exception.
Even with a deviation from the usual Bond plot, many of the other familiar elements are there to remind the audience that they're watching a James Bond movie. Bond's gadgets include a sniper rifle with a fingerprint sensor on its handle and explosive toothpaste, all thanks to Q, who decides to visit Bond like a father worried about his son. M and Moneypenny have brief appearances as well. As for the villain's henchman, they include a young Benicio del Toro as Dario, Wayne Newton as a preacher who is really announcing drug prices on TV, and Anthony Starke as an accountant obsessed with money.
Licence to Kill is easily one of the best Bond films in the series because of its dark nature, demonstrates what a Bond thriller really should be. Even though Timothy Dalton did not do a third film that could possibly top this one, this film and The Living Daylights are two great entries for the series. It is sad that after this film, it would be six years before fans would see James Bond again. But as fans would soon find out, the wait would be worth it. As the end credits in every Bond film say, James Bond will return.
For more information about Licence to Kill, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following:
Official James Bond Films
Unofficial James Bond Films