. It’s just James out to kill, and Dalton’s imposing appearance and ability to quick jerk into a maniac who will do whatever it takes to complete his mission are perfect for that story of Bond. You believe that this guy, when pushed to the edge, would be willing to completely ignore his true mission and actively fight back against MI6 trying to bring him back into his true work. And you also believe that Dalton’s Bond would be willing to just murder without consequence, and murder he does. He forces a man to fall into a shark pit. He throws guys out of a plane. And the way he kills the film’s main henchperson and the film’s villain is brutal and visceral and just stand out in my mind in an incredible way. Dalton’s Bond was clealry a dry run at what the franchise would eventually do again with Daniel Craig, and at the end of this movie, I was genuinely kind of bummed out that I wouldn’t get to see another movie with Dalton as the lead.

Introduction:

After Felix Leiter is maimed and Leiter’s new bride, Della, is murdered, Bond goes rogue from MI6 on a mission to kill the man responsible, drug lord Franz Sanchez.

Year: 1989

Bond, James Bond:

Timothy Dalton returns for his second and final performance as the famed spy and this is the perfect movie for his iteration of Bond. It’s dark and spends little time on trying to be cute or sarcastic or funny

The one kind of “ew” moment comes when he thinks that Pam Bouvier, the film’s female lead, has betrayed/misled him into thinking he could trust her. He breaks into their hotel room and forcibly grabs her by the arm, throws her onto a bed and rips her dress a bit in order to get to the gun in her garter holster. It’s all very jarring, and the fact that she really hasn’t misled him, but was instead on her own mission separately from him, makes it difficult to cast aside. It’s not an ideal moment, but, as far as the character goes, he genuinely believes that she is a double agent that could have caused his death. It works for this character’s story (especially considering he is basically running on rage in this movie) but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Song:

Gladys Knight takes the reins on the title song for this movie and there just isn’t a whole lot to say about it. It’s another love song, but with a title like “License to Kill” you think they’d have done something closer to a Paul McCartney style song, that just rocks hard and makes you get excited. Instead, we get lyrics like “Baby, wasn’t I the one who made you want to stay?” and more possessive lines like “Say that somebody tries to make a move on you/in the blink of an eye, I’ll be there too/And they’d better know why I’m gonna make them pay/Till their dying day.” It just doesn’t seem to fit the title or the movie in general. Knight sounds find on the vocals, but the song just does not stand out. This isn’t a song that I hate, but it’s for sure my least favorite of the songs that don’t put me to sleep/fill me with rage.

 

Villain:

After the double villains of Living Daylights, the series brings Robert Davi (Jake Fratelli from The Goonies) in to play drug lord Franz Sanchez, which just sounds like a character name, instead of the name of the person. After he gets captured at the start of the film, and eventually breaks out, he disappears for about an hour of this movie, but his presence is felt as James tries to track him down and encounters his men and his drug world. But Davi has a threatening look to him and brings a charm to the character as he kind of falls for Bond’s ploy to get into the drug world as an assassin. I think if the plot didn’t have the personal vendetta built in, Sanchez would be a forgettably written character (the confusing drugs and missiles plot doesn’t really help him), but Davi’s look and the fact that we just want to see this dude get murdered makes him a bit more memorable. And, boy, does he die. This is probably my favorite death of the franchise. So, a bit of added background before you watch. Before Felix and Della meet their respective fates, they gift James with a best man gift of a lighter (ha, get it!?) with a message inscribed on it. Towards the end of the film, James’ ploy has been revealed, and a chase ensues. Eventually, Bond and Sanchez end up fighting atop a gasoline tanker, which eventually topples into a ditch. That’s all you need. Enjoy (also warning, it’s brutal).

Girls:

Carey Lowell portrays the female lead of this film, CIA informant Pam Bouvier, and I am happy to say, that Timothy Dalton’s films have a perfect success rate for creating a compelling female foil for James. The first extended time we spend with Bouvier, she is holed up in a bar, waiting for Sanchez’s men to find her. She asks James if he is armed, and he reveals his handgun tucked into a shoulder holster. She “tsks” him and reveals a shotgun that she has under the table, and the combination of the much larger gun and the fact that she seems almost disappointed in Bond makes for a wonderful first impression. She is also the one to make the first romantic move on James (even if it feels unearned), and she kisses him, causing him to say, with a smirk, “Why don’t you wait until you’re asked?” and then she tells him to ask. It’s an exchange they repeat later in the film, switching roles, and it mostly works (with the added irony of James Bond of all people telling someone to get consent). She also goes undercover well, including seducing a fake televangelist (more on that character later) into thinking that she’s a big fan of his, and then when she reveals her true motives, he almost seems impressed. She also saves James a bunch of times, which is another nice twist on how these movies typically handle the Bond/female lead relationship.

The other fairly major female character in this movie is Talisa Soto’s Lupe Lamora, who is Franz Sanchez’s girlfriend and a love interest to James. This is basically all that she is or does in this movie, which is unfortunate on the level of female characters should be more than just a physical presence for a man. However, Soto’s performance doesn’t do the character any favors, never really delivering lines particularly convincing. Also, we are supposed to believe that she falls in love with James, which feels silly because they spend so little time together. The only reason that confession of love works is because she says it to Pam, who immediately mocks her for it, which is kind of glorious.

Even though she is not in the movie very long, I do want to mention Della Leiter, the brief bride to Felix, who is portrayed by Priscilla Barnes, who I guess replaced Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company. This is the first time we’ve heard of this character, but apparently, she and James are close because they give each other little kisses throughout the wedding, which I guess is a thing the bride does with the best man (care to comment, David and Mary!?!?). She does well enough with the time that she has, but the quick rotation from meeting this character to her death having a key role in James going rogue does not feel particularly earned.

Henchpeople/Sidekicks:

Wayne Newton is in this movie. Like, Danke Schoen Wayne Newton. He’s Professor Joe Butcher, a middleman for Sanchez’s drug world, who uses his religious cult/televangelism as a front for selling drugs. He stands out in a big way, but, I have to give him credit because he kind of gives an enjoyable performance. He made me laugh a couple of times, especially when he interacts with Pam. After he realizes that she was using him to get inside of the plant, he kind of smiles at her and says his televangelist catchphrase “Bless your heart” as he lets her escape, and does the same after Pam takes back the bag of money that she had given him earlier in the movie. I think him playing the character who buys so into what he preaches, even though it’s all a front for drugs, really just works. When I realized it was him, I wasn’t particularly excited, because it feels so stunt casty, but it works in a weird way.

The true henchperson in this movie is Dario, played by a young Benicio Del Toro, in just his second film appearance. Even at this point, he’s giving one of the weird performances for which he would later become somewhat infamous for (and seen most recently in Star Wars: The Last Jedi). One of his first lines is in response to Felix asking what happened to his wife, and Del Toro delivers the line “We gave her a nice honeymoon” with at least thirty-four “o”s. But, beyond that, he brings a kind of wild unpredictability to the character, to the point that he becomes one of the first henchpeople who I think genuinely terrifies Bond. The two characters meet early in the film, and don’t see each other again until after James has wormed his way into Sanchez’s trust. James is wearing a mask while touring a plant, and Dario seems to become instantly suspicious of him, something Bond realizes and Dalton reflects well. If it weren’t for Dario, Bond might never have been caught, and that moment feels earned because of del Toro’s performance. He also has a straight up brutal death, where he gets shredded by a giant shredder that Sanchez uses to shred drugs. The whole scene is a stressful experience, and then when Dairo finally falls in, his shouts and look of fear, combined with the surprising amount of blood spray the movie shows, freaked me out on such a level that I had to pause the movie for a second. I think the scene would have worked even without the strong performance from del Toro, but it’s his fear that really makes the moment stand out.

As the plot description above details, Felix Leiter returns, and it is the first time that an actor gets his second appearance as James’ CIA counterpart. However, weirdly enough, it is not the actor who portrayed Leiter in Living Daylights, but instead, it is David Hedison, who appeared in Live and Let Die. I’m not sure if I even mentioned his presence in that movie because he left so little impression. His performance doesn’t feel like a real person in this movie, but instead feels very much like a character performance. It’s a shame that of all the previous Leiters, this is the one who returned for another performance for what might be the meatiest stuff the character gets to do.

This is the last movie for two-thirds of our MI6 trio, with Robert Brown and Caroline Bliss taking their final bows as M and Moneypenny. Brown has been M for four or five movies, and he never really made a strong impression on me, always seeming like just another random British dude was angry with James. He does get a nice scene of trying to get James to focus on a real mission, but that might be his only memorable moment in his time in the franchise. That’s more than I can say for Bliss, who has two movies for Moneypenny, and gets nothing to do in her second one. I think she has two lines in this movie, and she’s sitting at a desk for both of them. It would have been hard to live up to Lois Maxwell, but Bliss never really got a chance to because of what she is given in her films.

The other member of the trio, the ever-present Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, is a joy as always. I mentioned in my previous write-up, but Llewelyn and Dalton have a mutual respect for each other which is something I really enjoy, and I also get to see Q in the field, which always strikes me as brilliantly weird. We also get another moment of Q in disguise, which is probably my favorite thing these movies have ever offered me and I wish there had been more of it.

The other groomsman at Felix’s wedding is a man named Sharkey, played by Frank McRae. I really don’t have a lot to say about him, but his name was Sharkey, and he knows a shark bite when he sees one, and I think that’s special enough to be mentioned in this section. He also dies, and James revenge kills a dude because of it, saying “Compliments of Sharkey,” which would have been a cooler sentence if his name hadn’t been Sharkey.

Gadgets:

There’s a brief scene where Q brings James a briefcase full of gadgets, most of which are quite lethal. So, obviously, Pam grabs of the gadgets, that looks like a camera and assumes that it is nothing but a camera and tells James and Q to get ready for a picture. The two MI6 employees dive out of the way as a laser shoots from the camera, damaging a nearby wall. It’s just a weird moment to see an otherwise smart spy make a silly choice, and then the fact that the camera produces an x-ray picture of whoever was in frame feels even sillier.

This movie spends some time underwater (not long enough for me to have Thunderball flashbacks). While underwater James utilizes what appears to be a large sheet cut in the shape of a manta ray, and the bad guys fall for him being a manta ray, despite the fact that his legs appear to be fairly visible, but, whatever. It’s not as silly as the crocodile one from Octopussy.

Story:

I will admit that the drug lord portion of this movie gets a bit confusing, especially when smuggled missiles are somehow thrown into the plot. However, even though this is Sanchez’s true profession, his relationship to James is merely the man who attacked his dear friends, so if the drugs and missiles of it all are basically irrelevant to James, I personally kind of think it is irrelevant. James is only after this guy so that he can kill him, and this streamlined portion of the plot is excellent. He spends some time doing spy work to get closer to Sanchez, and then works his way into the system to gain Sanchez’s trust so that he can more easily kill everyone responsible for everything that happened to Felix and Della. I think if this movie just focused on that instead of getting into the missile portion of the plot (I think even the drugs would have been sufficient backing for why the plot really gets going), the story would be one of the best in the franchise. I mean, I think it still is, but I think it falls a bit because of the confusing portion of it.

Miscellaneous Spy Business:

-I know that James and Felix have met up in a bunch of these movies, but they live on different continents; how is James Felix’s best man? Don’t you have American friends?

-To capture Sanchez at the start of the movie, James kind of repels down from a helicopter to attach Sanchez’s plane to a hook, which leads to the plane going vertical. It plays so similarly to the start of The Dark Knight Rises that you have to assume Nolan had this moment in mind when he created that scene.

-Also, Felix is on the way to his wedding when he goes off to capture Sanchez, and then he holes him up in a nearby building during the wedding. He was basically inviting Sanchez to take note of what is going on around him and how to find him after he escaped. I’m not saying that Felix got what he deserved, but it all feels very dangerous and very silly for a seasoned CIA agent to be taking these risks.

-In the previous film, Christian Shepard from Lost was a member of the CIA, and this time Big Ed Hurley from Twin Peaks is in the CIA. I’m just saying, if this is a shared universe, the CIA is about to get into some really confusing storylines.

-While investigating a marina, James finds a giant drawer of maggots, which he reaches in to discover drugs, and then eventually throws a dude inside of it, which is the grossest implied death I think I have ever seen.

-In a bar fight, a guy removes a walled swordfish and tries to stab James with it, which honestly would have been a pretty awesome death, if you ignore the fact it was a wall decoration.

-The drug plot eventually includes a Chinese spy agency pretending to be interested in Sanchez’s drugs. Two of them end up disguised as ninjas, because…China? I don’t know. It’s jarring and entirely unnecessary.

-The end of this movie includes a bunch of gasoline tankers exploding, and James doing wheelies and driving on one side, and it’s all kind of weird, but also excellent.

-I know I talked about it above, but I cannot stress enough how awesome the villain death is in this movie. From Bond actually looking like hell, which is not something I’m used to, to the culmination of the revenge, to just how brutal it is. It’s a standout moment in a movie I deeply, deeply enjoyed.

Rating:

So everything that I’ve heard about this movie, whether it be on a podcast or just through random rankings online, I anticipated it to be one of my least favorites, as that seems to be the general consensus. Well, I go strongly against the general consensus. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s an excellent use of Timothy Dalton. The major members of the supporting cast (Lowell, Davi and Del Toro) all do decently strong work with their characters. It’s brutal in a way that you would kind of expect of a spy movie, especially when that spy is on a revenge mission.

I can see why people don’t like this movie. It does not particularly feel like a James Bond movie. It is incredibly dark and some of the kills were so brutal that I felt the need to pause the movie and get some jitters out of my body. It’s not as witty as previous films. They’re not going all over the world to solve a mission, and are instead just kind of focused on a small radius in North America. There’s just a lot about this movie that does not feel Bondian. Because of all of that, I do understand why this movie tends to be on the bottom of people’s lists, but that will not be the case for mine. 009 out of 0010.

TJ Hizer Will Return With: GoldenEye

References
License to Kill Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licence_to_Kill
"License to Kill" Lyrics https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/gladysknight/licencetokill.html
Robert Davi Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Davi
Priscilla Barnes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priscilla_Barnes
Benicio Del Toro Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benicio_del_Toro#Film

Photo Credits
Cover Photo https://i.ytimg.com/vi/J5qn9PVDneo/maxresdefault.jpg
Timothy Dalton http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Dalton-Blue-Suit.jpg
License to Kill Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju_by-sC79c
Sanchez Death https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZEaFYQecn8
Pam Bouvier https://tjatthemovies.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/ffc2b-pambouvier1.png
Wayne Newton https://tjatthemovies.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/64df5-l14.jpg
Benicioooooooooooooo http://bondfanevents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/licencetokill18.jpg
Q https://nighthawknews.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/q.png
Manta Ray http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.101148.1313912388!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/gallery_1200/gal-gadget-ltk-mantaray-jpg.jpg

One thought on “License to Kill Reaction

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