Bond: Licence to Kill
When THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS came out in the summer of 1987, it was a modest financial success- but clearly, audiences were not flocking to Bond films the way they used to. Obviously, the formula needed to be shaken up somewhat.
In the eighties, North American audiences were action crazy- with films like DIE HARD, LETHAL WEAPON, PREDATOR, and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, raking up tons of dough. Obviously, the Bond producers wanted to cash in on this new hardcore action trend- and the decision was made to make the next Bond instalment, the grittiest and most violent entry in the series thus far.
PLOT: When Bondís friend and ally, Felix Leiter is violently attacked and left widowed on his wedding day, Bond goes on the warpath- vowing to kill the Columbian drug lord responsible for the attack.
REVIEW: I write this having just seen QUANTUM OF SOLACE. My full review of that film will not be up until Friday, but one of the things that struck me most about it was how incredibly similar it is to LICENCE TO KILL. Both films feature a newly gritty and timely Bond in his second outing, and both films depart vastly from the Bond formula. While LICENCE TO KILL was panned when it came out, so far the response to QUANTUM is positive enough to indicate that audiences are more responsive to a dark, violent, angst ridden Bond than they were almost twenty years ago.
While QUANTUM is obviously heavily inspired by the BOURNE films, LICENCE TO KILL is probably the result of Cubby Broccoli, & Michael G. Wilson having watched a bunch of Joel Silver films. Every frame of this film screams late eighties action flick- from the Michael Kamen score, to the violent action sequences, to the Columbian drug dealer villain. Heck- it even has an eighties style bar fight that looks like it came right out of ROAD HOUSE!
Despite the considerable change of pace, I still really like LICENCE TO KILL, and like Daltonís other entry, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS- itís an underrated flick. While itís not particularly faithful to the established formula of the franchise, itís still quite faithful to the character of Bond himself- and more than any of the other actors (Craig included), Dalton really embodies the literary Bond of the original Ian Fleming novels.
Obviously at some point, the producers went back to the novels for inspiration. Heck, even the whole attack on Leiter, from the pack of sharks devouring one of his arms and legs- to the note ďhe disagreed with something that ate himĒ, was actually lifted right out of the book LIVE AND LET DIE. In the novels, Bond was more of a flawed hero, prone to embarking on mad quests for vengeance, and Dalton- who supposedly studied the novels closely, seems to really understand what makes the character tick.
For me, the best part of the film is really the first half, where Bond investigates one of Sanchezís associates, Milton Krest. At this point, another of Bondís friends- Sharkey (a very Quarrel-esque character played by eighties action mainstay Frank McRae) gets killed by some of Krestís henchmen. Once Bond sees Sharkeyís lifeless body, he flies into a blind rage and, in one of the most bad ass sequences in the franchiseís history, calmly takes a harpoon gun- walks up to the man responsible, and shoots the guy point blank in the chest- telling him: ďcompliments of Sharkey!Ē Totally awesome stuff, although the film slows down a bit once he hits Mexico City, and begins infiltrating Sanchezís cartel- which is a little too Joel Silver for a Bond flick. Happily, Q gets a much larger than usual role, going AWOL in order to help Bond out on his mission. Awesome stuff- making an already solid Bond film all the better.
Once again, Dalton does a great job as Bond. Itís a pity he never got a third film, as I truly think he would have won more people over had he been given some time. Still, both of Daltonís films are excellent- even though everyone seems to enjoy beating up on the guy due to the fact that his films did not break box office records. Iíd love to see Dalton make a comeback someday. His scene stealing turn in HOT FUZZ proves how versatile the guy is, and it would be nice to see him get some more decent roles. As heís now in his early sixties, I could easily see him as a supporting actor in the Brian Cox mold.
We get two great ones in this outing, led by Carey Lowell (aka Mrs. Richard Gere- lucky bastard!) as ex- CIA pilot Pam Bouvier- whoís one of the toughest (but still smoking hot) Bond girls in the series. In many ways, her tough as nails action heroine was ahead of itís time- as Bouvier is definitely the type of role Iíd see someone like Angelina Jolie playing nowadays.
We also get the stunning Talisa Soto as Lupe, Sanchezís abused ex-model girlfriend- who inspires an early violent scene where Sanchez has her loverís heart cut out (by Benicio Del Toro)- that really establishes the filmís gritty tone.
BOND MUSIC: John Barry had quit the franchise by this point, and Michael Kamen, who scored DIE HARD, LETHAL WEAPON, & ROAD HOUSE was brought in to provide the music. While it doesnít sound particularly Bondian- itís still a great action score the fits the movie like a glove. Not too keen on the Gladys Knight theme song...
BODY COUNT: Bond himself only kills ten, but itís still a very violent outing. At one point, Bouvier sends a henchman to a violent death by knocking him into an industrial shredder. At another point- Sanchez locks someone in a decompression chamber, and watches as their head explodes.
NUMBER OF WOMEN BOND SLEEPS WITH: As Bond is on a mission of vengeance, he doesnít have that much time to sleep around, but he still manages to bed both Pam & Lupe.
BEST ONE- LINER: [Killifer- the traitor CIA agent that sold Leiter out, is dangling on a rope over shark-infested water]
Killifer: There's $2 million in that suitcase. I'll split it with you.
Bond: You earned it. You keep it, Old Buddy!
[Bond then chucks the case at him, knocking him into the water, and to a very violent death]
BEST DOUBLE ENTENDRE: [After Bond has introduced Pam as his executive secretary Miss Kennedy]
Bouvier: It's Ms. Kennedy. And why can't you be my executive secretary?
Bond: We're south of the border. It's a man's world.
BEST GADGET: : Bond rocks an awesome signature gun supplied by Q that can only be fired by him.
RECEPTION: Despite its reputation as a box office dud, LICENCE TO KILL actually made $156 Million worldwide- which was more than the $140 Million made by THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. However, it was a major box office bomb in the U.S, only pulling in $33 Million- although bear in mind, it had to compete against BATMAN & LETHAL WEAPON 2.
GRADE: 8/10- another very solid Dalton outing.
Previous reviews: DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE , GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER , LIVE AND LET DIE, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, MOONRAKER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, OCTOPUSSY, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, A VIEW TO A KILL, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS