Timothy Dalton’s final Bond film and not by choice. Legal disputes took place after this feature due to television rights, ensuring another Bone feature could not be made. Dalton still on contract to play him a third time, but by the time 1994 rolled around, he dropped out Licence to Kill seemed like the end of the Bond franchise for good with screenwriter Richard Maibaum, title designer Maurice Binder, and many of the long time Bond crew decided to part from the series. Along with this, this film failed to gain the kind of box office withdrawals previous films made. It is considered one of the darkest and grim of the series, along as the worst. I beg to differ on the latter part.
As Bond heads to the wedding of former CIA now DEA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison, Live and Let Die), the DEA contact Leiter and Bond to help capture drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) before the wedding. Bond and Felix capture him by helicopter and hooking Sanchez’s plane mid-air. Bond and Leiter jump out of the plane a parachute to the wedding. Sanchez uses a fellow DEA agent of Leiter’s, Ed Killifer (Everett McGill) to help him escape. As he escapes, Sanchez sends his henchman, Dario (Bencio del Toro in his first major role), to capture Felix Leiter’s wife, Della (Priscilla Barnes) and to rape and kill her. Dario kidnaps Leiter and having a shark bite off his leg. Bond goes back to Leiter’s place after hearing that Sanchez has escape to find to find Della dead, but Felix injured (if you can call getting bitten by a frickin’ shark an injury). Bond vows to avenge Della’s death by hunting down and killing Sanchez, but Bond fans know it is him seeking a personal vendetta due to his own wife’s death. Bond kills the DEA agent that betrayed Leiter which causes M to assign Bond another assignment, but Bond ejects the offer and resigns from MI6 to carry out his personal mission. With his license to kill revoked, Bond boards a ship, the Wavekrest run by Sanchez’s other henchman Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe) and steal five million from him. Bond enlists help from ex-CIA agent-pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) to get Bond over to Republic of Isthmus, after being in a bar fight with Dario. Bond and Bouvier escape, make love, and go to Isthmus City.
Upon arrival, they encounter Q (Desmond Llewelyn) who is there to help and Sanchez’s girlfriend, Lupe Lomara (Talisa Soto), ready to betray Sanchez and give Bond insight to Sanchez’s plan. Bond decides to start learning more about the scheme by posing as an assassing looking for work, but gets his ass kicked by Hong Kong Narcotics Agents and Fallon of MI6 ready to send Bond back to the UK. Luckily, he escapes as always and enter Waveskrest to frame Krest by using the five million he stole to convince Sanchez he betrayed him. Sanchez throws him into a hyperbraic chamber and blow him up (I am not joking). Sanchez sees Bond is loyal and accepts him into his group. Bond is then taken to Sanchez’s base of operations disguised as a meditation resort, run by Prof. Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton [Yes that Wanye Netwon]) using it as a front to deal drugs. The drugs in question are cocaine that dissolve in petrol fuel to sell and disguise it to the Asian drug ring. Dario recognizes Bond from earlier and betrays him to Sanchez. Bond sets the laboratory on fire while attempting to escape, but is captured and put on a conveyor belt to be killed by a shredder. Luckily, Bouvier shows up enough to distract Dario and send him to the shredder and saves Bond. Bond alongside Bouvier take a plane to find the four tankers filled with the cocaine petrol (that is a thing now, just accept it) and destroy three of the tankers with Bond taking control of one. Sanchez begins to attack Bond on the final tanker, as it loses control and falls into the desert. Sanchez is ready to kill Bond, but Bond sees he is covered in petrol causing Bond to use the lighter Felix and Ella gave him to burn Sanchez into one crispy son of a bitch. Bond and Bouvier leave and the end…well, let’s face it, we know what happens.
Licence to Kill isn’t a bad film and I don’t find it as awful as many people claim (Entertainment Weekly called it the second worst of the franchise, but then again, Entertainment Weekly isn’t the best source). Dalton is still great and can pull off Bond with Heddison back as Leiter giving a great performance. Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto as Pam Bouvier and Lupe Lomora respectively are wonderful, with Carey Lowell shining a bit brighter to me. Robert Davi as Sanchez is just perfect, bar none. This man can pull off being the bad guy in almost anything be it as one of the Fratellis in The Goonies or being a cold hearted yet loveable bastard in this film and I love him to death (also, special mention to his iguana, which just adds to his legend). Desmond Lllewelyn as Q gets much more screen time which I feel is well deserved as he seems like the Bond ally that would be best suited to protect him, then again, I’m bias because of my love of Q. Bencio del Toro in his first role is pretty great too adding a blend of slimy asshole and suave sexiness. The action is superb, even if it is a bit too grim for some parts and the plot is well structure and moves smoothly and never bores. The only major problem with the film and it is a major one is that this feels like a great crime thriller that just happens to have James Bond in it. You can take James Bond out of it and put anybody else with the same qualities and it would be the same movie. This does not feel like the typical Bond film, but it doesn’t mean it is all bad. I can see the complaints plain and clear, but to me, it works.
The theme song by Gladys Knight is soulful, bombastic, and a delightful treat to hear. It is almost a nice throwback while being modern, for the time anyway. Expect this in my top ten favorite Bond songs. Licence to Kill, despite what others may have told you, is not as bad as they say. It perfectly pace, perfectly plotted, and well acted with great action throughout, even if it feels less like a Bond film and more like Miami Vice.
Assignment Status: 4 out of 5
Next time, six years after disputes and trying to find a way to bring Bond back to life, Pierce Brosnan steps in to tackle the role in a new vision for the series as he faces off against an old friend trying to rid the world. Also, spoiler, it is fantastic in every way.
And yes, I’ll be talking about the Nintendo 64 game alongside it.