johnlink ranks LICENCE TO KILL (1989)

Sometimes you need a little Bond in your life.


I watched LICENCE TO KILL (1989) on 6.5.15. It was my second viewing of the film and first in over 10 years.

As James Bond goes, Timothy Dalton may be the least memorable. Connery is an icon of course. Moore had some great moments and Craig has revolutionized the role. Brosnan had some big budget action flicks which launched a new generation of Bond viewers (even if most of those movies were terrible), and Lazenby at least has the distinction of being the guy who only did it once (unless you count Peter Sellers, which no one really does). Dalton did two Bond flicks in the late 80s, and none really talks about him.

It’s not hard to see why. He lacks the charisma of many of the others. He doesn’t come across as an action star, or even as someone particularly dangerous. He is probably the Bond who looks most like a Bond villain. His delivery isn’t poor, but it doesn’t really inspire anything.

LICENCE TO KILL was his second, and last, James Bond film. It is not bad at all. The story, in particular, has more nuance and twists and intrigue than many of its predecessors. Bond goes rogue in order to take on a drug cartel, led by Sanchez (Robert Davi). He has the help of a ‘modern’ Bond girl (because this one was an army pilot), in Pam (Carey Lowell) – only of course Bond marginalizes her like he does most women. Bond ends up very close to Sanchez, and that relationship leads to much of this movie’s uniqueness.

It hasn’t aged particularly poorly. Even if some of the haircuts and clothes look dated, the action mostly works. An opening helicopter attack is classic Bond, and it also introduces us to the main villain as he is being captured, which is a nice twist. Some of the underwater scenes are nice, even if they have been done before. The violence is bit bloodier than normal, with a guy’s head being inflated and popped and another guy ending up in a grater. As far as 25 year old action films go, it still holds its entertainment value.

A good chunk of the middle of this film is pure suspense¬†thriller. LICENSE TO KILL is¬†good at giving us that. When it gets back to action at the end, it is your standard Bond versus all the henchmen scenario. This film is creative in its bits here, though there is not that one moment which launches off the screen (a moment with Bond getting an 18-wheeler to ride on half its wheels and popping wheelies tries to be this, but it doesn’t quite get there).

Really, if there is a glaring hole in this movie, it is the villain contingent. Davi isn’t bad as Sanchez, but he is not a standout. He stokes a lizard and leans on his Cuban accent to seem mean. His lead henchmen is played by Benicio Del Toro, but is otherwise forgettable.

But despite all that, this isn’t one of the great Bond films by any stretch. it’s biggest strike is Dalton’s Bond. Again, he isn’t horrible. He just doesn’t pop off the screen. And if there is one thing Bond needs to be, it is a larger-than-life hero. I’d certainly watch LICENCE TO KILL again, and it deserves to be in the top half of Bond movies, but it isn’t one of the canonical entries in the series.




FINAL SCORE: 5.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on June 5, 2015.

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