Sunday, June 6, 2010
Movie of the Week
LICENCE TO KILL (1989)
Starring- Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Anthony Zerbe
Here is part two of my series on each James Bond movie. Licence to Kill was the most violent and hard edged Bond film of the series until Daniel Craig stepped into the role in 2006. In his first outing as 007, Timothy Dalton had done his best to make Bond more dangerous and realistic, but it wasn't until 1989 that he went all the way. At the time, Licence to Kill was a bit too dark for audiences, but by today's standards it is pretty tame. Either way, it is a very good entry in the series and Dalton's best film as James Bond.
Even though the writers and producers had run out of Ian Fleming plots and titles, the script for Licence to Kill boasts great scenes and characters that were unused in previous films- namely the main thrust of the plot which comes from the Live and Let Die novel. That main thrust is the near fatal wounding of James Bond's close friend and ally Felix Leiter at the hands of the villain. The villain is cold, calculating drug dealer Franz Sanchez (Davi) who feeds Leiter to his shark as a purely "business" move to get the American feds off his trail. Bond discovers Leiter's maimed body and sets out on a revenge mission, but is forced to give up his licence to kill to do it.
What follows is a great story of 007 working outside his usual channels to get close to Sanchez and his operation in order to bring it down from the inside. I call it the old "Yojimbo" treatment. Without his Secret Service support, he must rely on his wits more than ever. He does have some support from leggy CIA agent/pilot- Pam Bovier (Lowell) and Sanchez's smoldering lady friend Lupe (Talisa Soto). Also, Q turns up to dole out some gadgets in the field and to add a welcome bit of humor to this sometimes weighty adventure. Eventually Bond is outed as an enemy, but not before he has made Sanchez destroy much of his cocaine operation and kill many of his own men.
Licence to Kill suffers a bit from looking a bit too late '80's, but other than being a bit dated as far as fashion, it holds up quite well. The action scenes are great, especially considering Dalton does much of his own stunt work. Of particular note are the underwater/airplane waterskiing scene, and the climactic battle aboard several cocaine laden tanker trucks. Robert Davi stands out as a great Bond villain who exudes charm and treacherousness at the same time, as do the slimy Anthony Zerbe and a young Benicio Del Toro as his henchmen. Dalton's Bond this time around is a loose cannon, capable of anything at any time, and he looks as if he is just barely maintaining control throughout the whole movie. It is a solid performance that harkens back to Fleming's original creation. A rather poor ad campaign hurt this film's box office appeal, but Licence to Kill had enough success that the producers decided to keep on making Bond movies and for that I am eternally grateful.
Things to watch for-
"He disagreed with something that ate him"
Wayne Newton as Professor Joe
The haunted stretch of Mexican road they used for the tanker chase
Ernest Hemingway's house
"Your licence to kill is revoked."