After capturing the notorious drug lord Franz Sanchez, Bond's close friend and former CIA agent Felix Leiter is left for dead and his wife is murdered. Bond goes rogue and seeks vengeance on those responsible, as he infiltrates Sanchez's organization from the inside.
Effective immediately, your licence to kill is revoked, and I require you to hand over your weapon. Licence to Kill is directed by John Glen and written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson. It's an original story that uses characters and instances created by Ian Fleming. It stars Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Desmond Llewelyn, David Hedison, Benicio Del Toro, Frank McRae, Everett McGill and Wayne Newton. Music is scored by Michael Kamen and cinematography by Alec Mills. Bond 16 and 007 goes rogue when drug baron Franz Sanchez leaves Felix Leiter mutilated and his wife dead. With licence revoked by MI6, Bond has to go it alone to enact revenge for the Leiters. The controversial Bond for many reasons, Licence to Kill even today has been known to induce fearsome arguments in Bond fan circles. Not since On Her Majesty's Secret Service has a Bond film so polarised opinions. In one corner are the folks who determine it's not a Bond movie, in the other is those who say it's a stripped to the bone human Bond. You either love it or you hate it it seems. True to say that it is more an action thriller than a outright Bond film, no humongous sets, no megalomaniac villain (Davi's drug baron a very realistic menace) and of course there is Bond being pursued by those that have courted him previously as their number one agent. Yet there's a whole raft of scenarios that could only exist in a Bond universe, there's gadgets, too, for those that enjoy that side of Bond. Where else would you see a tanker driving on its side? Or exploding toothpaste and alarm clock, camera's that turn into weapons and a broom that is actually a transmitter? Not Bondian enough? Really? Licence to Kill is a superior action thriller movie, the script is tight, the cast ace and the picture is crammed full of exceptional action set pieces. From the pre-credits sequence that sees Bond and Leiter enact a mid-air arrest, to the rather brilliant tanker carnage at the finale, the film rarely pauses for breath, and right there in the centre is a brilliant Dalton giving a rogue Bond plenty of layers. He's brainy and classy, fallible and driven, intense and tough, always sexy and always dangerous. Dalton's ability to convey raw emotion as each challenge comes his way is a real treat to watch. But most of all he is right there restoring Bond to being a serious action figure. What Bond fans didn't realise at the time was that it would be 17 years before Bond would be this raw again, then it would be heralded as a brave new start for Bond! Another of the film's strengths is bringing back Hedison as Leiter, last seen playing the role in Live and Let Die, Hedison has great chemistry with Dalton and it's a joy to see Leiter play an active part in the action on screen. However, the makers do make a misstep by having Leiter be all too jovial at the end of the film, weird since he is minus a limb and his wife was raped and murdered by Sanchez's henchmen. Another big plus is Lowell's Pam Bouvier, a tough and brave Bond girl, sexy as heck, her pilot skills come in handy and she's no mug when it comes to brawling. Lowell does fine work in the role and keeps it away from being a token interest cliché. Davi keeps Sanchez as believable, a very driven drug baron who is cultured and funny, but always pulsing a vicious streak, while McRae has presence, McGill neatly keeps the cards close to his chest, Del Toro a nice line in nastiness and Soto is pretty as a picture and plays Lupe Lamora with skilled vulnerability. And of course there's Llewelyn as Q, who here gets a right old meaty role as he goes out in the field to become Bond's only aid from MI6. Again, not Bondian enough? Licence to Kill saw the end of Dalton's tenure as Bond, legal issues between Danjaq and MGM/UA meant that no Bond movie would be made for another six years. By then Dalton had moved on to other work and was 51. It also marked the end of production duties for Cubby Broccoli, the final direction by John Glen (5 Bond films in total), Richard Maibaum's last script and the last performances by Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Moneypenney. One of the many misconceptions about the Dalton era is that Licence to Kill was a flop, it made $156 million worldwide, considerably down on The Living Daylights but more than A View to a Kill. A huge profit of over $100 million, this in spite of it being pitched against Batman and sequels to beloved American films by a studio head who had no idea how to market a film. The best actor to take on the role of Bond, Dalton's impact on the series cannot be overstated, he (rightly so) is very proud of his work in the two films and still talks very fondly of a role he respected beyond compare. 9/10
_**A different kind of Bond**_ Released in 1989, "Licence to Kill" always struck me as the most atypical Bond film. In this one James (Timothy Dalton) goes rogue after a good friend's bride is murdered and the friend is half-eaten by a shark. Stripped of his authority, Bond vengefully goes after the responsible drug lord, Sanchez (Robert Davi). The opening act drives home that "Licence to Kill" is a more serious and brutal Bond flick. Although there's still a lot of "yeah, right" moments, the comedic edge of past Bond films is all but gone. And the violence is so savage and merciless compared to past films that it almost comes off shocking. In addition, the spectacular globe-trotting locations are absent in favor of a more one-dimensional setting -- the Florida Keys and Mexico (where the film was shot). Although they do fine with these limited locales, the change is noticeable. The women are below par as well. Carey Lowell works best as the "Bond girl," but she pales in comparison to, say, Lois Chiles, Luciana Paluzzi and Claudine Auger. Talisa Soto is also on hand as Sanchez' girl and, briefly, Priscilla Barnes. The opening stunt sequence is alright, but it's unmemorable compared to past Bond films, like "The Living Daylights," "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker." Furthermore, there's an under-developed subplot about a cult guru and the film seems overlong at 133 minutes. But the movie scores points with effective villains (it wouldn't be right to say "good villains", would it?), particularly Davi and a young Benicio Del Toro, both cruel and sadistic. FINAL SAY: The fun might be over, but at least they tried something different to stir things up. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work. "Licence to Kill" performed weakly at the box office and ranks with the lesser Bond flicks. Still, it's interesting as an atypical part of the series -- darker and grittier, albeit still comic booky. Plus Dalton is striking as the vengeful protagonist and, if you can hang around till the final act, it's totally kick-axx. GRADE: B-
I was just not a fan of Timothy Dalton's "007" and so can't say I was looking forward with much enthusiasm to this. Sadly, it didn't surprise - it's a really far fetched, frankly rather unpleasant, outing for Ian Fleming's deadly agent that sees him on the trail of an evil drug lord who fed "Felix" (David Hedison) to a shark whilst doing away that man's new wife. What now ensues is just a series of unremarkable set-piece escapades that have precious little jeopardy to them. Anthony Zerbe just doesn't cut it as the supposedly menacing "Milton Krest" (surely a milk-shake?) nor does Robert Davi as baddie-in-chief "Sanchez". Not that it's unusual for a "Bond" film - but this one really does play a bit too much to stereotype without any of the fun; the tongue-in-cheekiness or any charisma at all from the star very much on the wain here. As adventure films go, it is entertaining enough - there are gadgets; but the banal dialogue grates after a while and this one somehow appears much less "British" than many of it's forebears - certainly it is grittier and more violent. Adequate, but I would not say anything for the far classier and engaging Connery or Moore to worry about.
Man, del Toro was only 21 in this film and still makes a showing as one of the most lethal Bond baddies in the history of the franchise. And for those of you who are obsessed with Bondlore, this is the 007 film that references the events in OHMSS which proves that Bond is one person and not just a "title" like the people who are trying to completely rewrite the franchise to inject modern politics over story and fun. Anyway, moving on, this, like The Living Daylights, the closest Bond to Flemming's 007 and the closest Bond to the cold blooded assassin of the early Connery films to-date. So it has always come across as odd that so many people that love Connery 007 hate Dalton. It's also a break away from MI6 and shows Bond going out on his own to avenge Felix, who is the US counterpart to his character. It moves away from a lot of the 007 tropes in story alone, but it also tells a completely different story with a Bond that is far closer to the source material than anything we had seen before. So I can certainly understand the hate, but, personally, I think it's one of the best 007 outings we have had thus far.
**License to Kill transformers Bond from a goofy punchline to a vengeful unstoppable force, turning the franchise from whimsical to gritty and producing one of the best films of the series.** License to Kill marked a major shift in the franchise away from the campy, goofy, and almost family-friendly Roger Moore Bind films to something darker and more brutal. Timothy Dalton’s Bond is savage and emotional, using only his wits to track down an elusive drug lord and devising an elaborate scheme to exact revenge and cripple the entire drug enterprise. No longer are the jokes and gadgets the focus, but instead, the violence and rage of Bond and the villains he faces take center stage. Characters are eaten by sharks, crushed, exploded, and more in barbaric ways with incredible stunts and a more grounded sobering story. License to Kill finds its influence in Miami Vice and benefits from a less outrageous or fantastical story. Unfortunately, License to Kill was before its time as Brosnan’s Bond slid the franchise back to the far-fetched goofy extremes of Bond. Thankfully the Craig era returned to what Dalton began with a nuanced and volatile character in a more believable world of spies and danger. License to Kill is one of the best in the Bond franchise and shamefully underrated.