Licence To Kill, the last Bond movie to feature Timothy Dalton celebrates it’s 30th anniversary, but has this gritty version of Bond that was a head of its time held up three decades later?
Since I had never seen “License To Kill”, I felt I was best suited to review it. Beings that I have no preconceived notions about the movie I can give a fair and unbiased review.
A few facts to start me out: Timothy Dalton wasn’t their first choice to don the moniker of Bond when searching for someone new to fill Roger Moore’s suave, yet mildly cheeky shoes. Sam Neill and Pierce Brosnan were at the top of the list for “The Living Daylights”. Brosnan was contractually obligated to star in Remington Steele, although he got his shot as Bond for the next four films. And Neill went on to other films, most notably The Hunt For Red October and Jurassic Park.
“License To Kill” was the first Bond film to be shot entirely outside of the United Kingdom. Instead, the movie was principally shot in Mexico and the US and interior shots were done in Mexico City.
In my opinion, “License To Kill” started off a bit harsh for my taste. I truly did not care for the scene where Sanchez beats his cheating girlfriend with a big rubber whip. And whilst this is going on, we have a wedding party coming together. It just felt thrown together, almost as if the writers took two very different scripts put them in a blender and whatever came out was what they went with. When I did a little digging into this movie, I was shocked to find that was pretty much how the script for “License To Kill” was born. Apparently, story arcs were added from a couple of Ian Flemmings short stories, add in a back-story to Felix Leiter and intertwined with aspects from Japanese Ronin tales. Granted, this was done during a writer’s strike, so the two writers became only one writer for a time.
Nonetheless, several aspects of “License To Kill” were lackluster and even the most benign seemed to lose its kitsch. Every Bond film has that iconic opening of looking down a barrel of a gun, BANG, and the Bond theme starts. But in this movie there was something off about, well, the whole thing. The barrel look was off, there was no shot and the theme itself lacked the sound that I was accustomed to. Honestly I felt as though I were watching a student film trying to emulate a proper James Bond opening.
Let’s just get it out there; the most original thing I took away from the movie was how they moved their drugs. Pulverizing it and mixing with gasoline was, for it’s time almost genius; although, separating the two seemed a bit like straining the liquid through a coffee filter.
My takeaway, drugs and bloody violence, why was it necessary to have so many scenes of torture shown. I get it, they were going for a grittier ‘I’m a bad ass’ Bond film, but it didn’t come across as such. It seemed as though the second unit was being asked to pack in as much blood, fire and sharks to fill in the holes from the lack of script. It was just too much. When done right and delivered with gusto and passion, bloody violence can enhance the movies experience. When lines are delivered with the passion of a pizza delivery person, well, blood and violence tends to make one look away, change the channel or in some cases leave the movie theater.
Now granted, this was 30 years ago, and we as a society have allowed ourselves to become immune and unfazed by women being beaten for a mans pleasure, feeding live people to sharks, throwing people into grinders and other things that I’ve already forgotten about from the movie “License To Kill”.
As I wrote in the beginning, I hadn’t seen “License To Kill” until today. Up to now I steered clear of the Timothy Dalton Bond films because I was told they were awful, terrible, and just didn’t have what the other 22 had. After watching “License To Kill” I can honestly say, the only thing that was killed was my time.
License To Kill is the 16th Bond movie and was released to US theaters on July 14, 1989.
Rated: PG / Running Time: 133 minutes
Cast: Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Benicio del Toro, Robert Brown
License To Kill Synopsis:
James Bond relinquishes his licence to kill, disobeys his orders and goes on a mission of revenge when his best friend’s wife is killed by a drug baron. A beautiful CIA pilot flies him to Sanchez’s South American headquarters where, disguised as a hit man, Bond is hired by the villainous drug dealer.
Categories: Movie Anniversaries