When Felix Leiter is brutally mutilated and his new bride
murdered by a powerful drug lord, Franz Sanchez, James Bond
sets out to avenge his old friend and fellow agent, even though
it means defying M's orders. Bond quits Her Majesty's Secret
Service, and must forfeit his licence to kill...
the time, Dalton said that while The Living Daylights
was "a step in the right direction", Licence to Kill
was "a leap". Certainly, while the script to his first Bond
movie had been tinkered with to befit his grittier portrayal,
its follow-up was crafted from the outset to suit his Bond
perfectly. The creative team bring more of Ian Fleming's 007
to the screen: this Bond has doubts, he is fallible, makes
mistakes, and he carries through what he only threatened to
do in On Her Majesty's Secret Service by becoming a
renegade. Some critics have complained that Dalton made Bond
too human, but Pierce Brosnan went on to do much the same
thing, no doubt having realised that there are few things
less interesting in drama than a hero with whom the audience
villain, played with equal measures of style and sadism by
Robert Davi, is an adversary truly worthy of Bond. Sanchez's
physical stature is more than equal to that of Dalton's 007,
while his mighty drug empire provides a believable and topical
variation on the archetypal billionaire bad guy.
is provided by Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora and Carey Lowell
as Pam Bouvier. Lupe, like Maud Adams' Andrea in The Man
with the Golden Gun, is the villain's lover, seeking a
way to escape his clutches. As the independent, gun-toting
Pam, Lowell makes the most of a gutsy role as the main Bond
girl. Though 007 does not remain monogamous, as he did in
The Living Daylights, by the end of the film he finds
himself in a situation he has never faced before. For the
first and only time, both of his lovers make it to the end
of the picture (For Your Eyes Only doesn't count, because
Bond never slept with Lynn-Holly Johnson's Bibi), so he has
to choose between them.
Another pivotal character is Desmond Llewelyn's Q, who enjoys
the largest role he would ever have in a Bond movie, providing
some much-needed comic relief amid all the action, violence
and emotional intensity. Meanwhile, David Hedison as the unfortunate
Felix holds the distinction of being the only actor to have
played Leiter twice. His previous outing was in Live and
Let Die in 1973, so he looks a bit long in the tooth acting
alongside Dalton, but the two performers succeed in creating
a sense of their characters being old buddies.
is the first Bond film not to take its title from a Fleming
story, but writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson still
borrow some crucial elements from his work. The attack upon
Felix is lifted from the novel Live and Let Die, while
Milton Krest (portrayed as a real creep by Anthony Zerbe)
and his vessel, the Wavekrest, come from the short
story "The Hildebrand Rarity", though his penchant for whipping
his abused lover with a stingray is transferred to Sanchez.
John Gardner novelised
Licence to Kill, he attempted to fit it into the Bond
literary canon. However, he overlooked the repetition of the
"Hildebrand" elements and treated Felix's shark attack as
an unlikely coincidence, a case of "lightning striking twice".
With slight tweaking, though, these problems could have been
ironed out. Krest might be the son of the character in Fleming's
short story. He could have inherited the Wavekrest
and whip from his father, and given the latter to Sanchez
as a gift when it took the drug lord's fancy. Instead of being
a coincidence, the shark attack could be a punishment deliberately
and cruelly selected by Sanchez with Leiter's personal history
notable weak point in the generally solid script comes right
at the end, when Bond's transgressions are rather readily
forgiven by M (Robert Brown). In retrospect this element of
closure is fortunate, because, due to disputes over the ownership
of the franchise, the next Bond film would not materialise
for another six years.
Accentuating the movie's distinctive style is the incidental
music of Michael Kamen, who is better known for his Lethal
Weapon scores. Not typically "Bondian" in style, aside
from its use of "The James Bond Theme", the music nevertheless
feels appropriate, and conveys a Hispanic flavour that suits
the Latin American location.
addition to the previously released "making of" feature, two
commentary tracks and two contemporary "behind the scenes"
documentaries, disc 2 also includes nine deleted scenes, location
footage and contemporary interviews with cast and crew members.
Music videos to both the opening and closing title songs remain
present and correct. The former, for Gladys Knight's "Licence
to Kill", features the work of Daniel Kleinman, who went on
to design the Bond title sequences from GoldenEye onwards.
The latter, accompanying Pattie La Belle's "If You Asked Me
To", features no Bond elements, only La Belle "dancing" in
a most peculiar way!
a great shame that this proved to be Dalton's last Bond picture.
The 15 certificate cannot have helped the box-office takings
during the very competitive summer of '89, and one wonders
how he would have fared with a 12 certificate, which benefited
Brosnan so well. Perhaps Dalton and director John Glen went
too far, too fast with this movie (the Brosnan films went
in a similar direction, but more cautiously). Legal wrangling
killed Dalton's licence to experiment further with the Bond
formula, but his contribution lives on here.