Bonding with Bond, Day 18: Licence to Kill

One intrepid RT editor is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

by | November 7, 2008 | Comments

In his second and final Bond film, Timothy Dalton continues to portray a serious Bond. Find out whether or not I would miss him.

Licence To Kill (1989) 76%


While there are some nutty elements in the opening scenes of Licence to Kill, it’s immediately clear that this would be a darker film. Timothy Dalton returns for his second and final turn as James Bond, surveying every situation through cold, narrow eyes, and the central villain, Franz Sanchez (played by Robert Davi, aka the guy who also tried to kill the Goonies) makes a menacing debut, executing his girlfriend’s lover-on-the-side and brutally whipping her for her transgression. So when the scene ends with Bond and Leiter parachuting down to Leiter’s wedding ceremony, the shift in tone threw me off.

But once that’s over and Maurice Binder’s trademark opening credits roll through, we dive right into the story, and more violence ensues. Temporarily captured for drug trafficking, Sanchez manages to escape by paying off a DEA agent and subsequently raids Leiter’s home, murders his wife, and feeds Leiter to sharks. When the latter took place, I found myself visibly disturbed, not because the scene was particularly gory, but because I was shocked at the possibility of Leiter being killed. He survives, luckily (and yes, unrealistically), and when Bond is denied the opportunity to go after Sanchez, he storms off to embark on what amounts to a revenge story.

This is a striking departure from the plots of previous Bond films, which mainly focused on sinister masterminds with ambitious plans for world domination. Licence to Kill, despite the international intrigue it eventually develops, is pretty much about Bond on a rampage to fulfill a personal vendetta — more evidence of the pure justice that Dalton’s Bond seems to embody. And to be honest, I thought that was kind of cool.


Also, I liked the idea of Bond presenting himself as an ally to Sanchez in order to get closer to him; I thought that this storyline played out realistically. When I wondered what would happen when Bond and Dario (a very young Benicio Del Toro), one of Sanchez’s henchmen, later ran into each other again, the results were also realistic. In fact, this movie had me in its clutches for most of its duration because I felt that the smattering of classic Bond camp was, for once, welcome relief from the gritty plot.

Robert Davi was excellent as Sanchez, I thought. He’s one of those actors who seems to play villains with a certain relish, like he enjoys being sadistic and manipulative. Though he doesn’t have a particularly imposing physical presence, he makes you believe he’s capable of evil things. He might not punch you if you insult him to his face, but he’ll smile and wait two weeks until you’re attending your daughter’s college graduation and send three thugs to gun down your entire extended family while you’re celebrating. Unfortunately, I didn’t think much of Talisa Soto as Sanchez’s woman, Lupe; Carey Lowell — while only slightly more convincing as an actress — at least made the bravado of Pam Bouvier fun to watch alongside Bond. And it’s nice to see Q, lovable old fart that he is, scuttling around and taking more of an active part in the story.

The story lost steam when Wayne Newton appeared as a cult leader, complete with a pyramid HQ set piece. In a film that seemed relatively grounded in reality and violence, the final scenes felt very out of place to me, and what could have been a great movie ended up being just good. After an hour and a half of plotting, double-crossing, and manipulation, the last thing I wanted to see was an 18-wheeler doing a wheelie and Wayne Newton fleeing from an exploding pyramid with a bag of money in his arms. It’s not that I don’t think Bond should be campy; I just don’t think it worked so well here.


Favorite line: “Looks like he came to a dead end.” — Bond says this about a double-crossing DEA agent who’s been skewered by a forklift.

Favorite moment: Late in the movie, Lupe bursts into the hotel room where Q and Pam are preparing to leave the Bahamas, and when she confesses to Pam that Bond spent the night with her, Q rolls his eyes and breaks up the inevitable catfight. I just like that Q is sort of a (grand)father figure to Bond. I can picture him feeding pigeons and giving butterscotch candies to little kids.

Other Articles:

Tag Cloud

spy thriller PBS Captain marvel Tubi screenings Cannes Film doctor who Comic Book Biopics 2017 Marathons Tarantino joker Ghostbusters WarnerMedia New York Comic Con green book halloween Elton John Calendar Lifetime foreign casting National Geographic Fall TV movies reboot Pop Chernobyl cats FOX Lifetime Christmas movies renewed TV shows revenge APB Syfy Columbia Pictures Spectrum Originals Sneak Peek free movies Winter TV Discovery Channel MSNBC elevated horror Oscars Paramount dramedy Spring TV romantic comedy Epix TLC Extras Anna Paquin LGBTQ Amazon Prime Video TV Land Valentine's Day 2016 Starz boxoffice Sony Pictures MTV ghosts Nickelodeon AMC book Holidays sag awards medical drama Thanksgiving supernatural El Rey E3 Women's History Month name the review 007 TNT Amazon Prime CBS All Access toy story cancelled TV series ratings spinoff Tumblr Music batman Mary poppins Cartoon Network composers dragons GIFs versus DGA Academy Awards what to watch Drama Interview Bravo romance LGBT TCM IFC Country cancelled TV shows Awards Tour aliens Musical Fox News TV renewals Reality Competition jamie lee curtis teaser diversity Apple TV+ TIFF SXSW game show Pride Month CNN miniseries Disney+ Disney Plus 2020 Ovation vampires spider-man Logo adventure USA Polls and Games justice league History GoT President psycho Esquire true crime spain Writers Guild of America series VH1 Heroines The Witch SDCC Photos animated Universal Binge Guide TV Apple cults Opinion Acorn TV Superheroes sitcom Crunchyroll YouTube Infographic Summer Super Bowl Mary Poppins Returns strong female leads cancelled 2015 crime thriller political drama independent BBC America cartoon Pirates Walt Disney Pictures Martial Arts Britbox Premiere Dates Musicals Dark Horse Comics DirecTV USA Network NBC blaxploitation Emmys 71st Emmy Awards Holiday The CW richard e. Grant Lionsgate Election quibi disaster Superheroe Lucasfilm Film Festival nature travel comic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Fantasy war Trivia Hulu Paramount Network Teen natural history Video Games IFC Films GLAAD Pet Sematary children's TV MCU based on movie serial killer Action cinemax space RT21 game of thrones RT History Spike zombies DC Comics slashers San Diego Comic-Con Pixar theme song Crackle Rocky VICE See It Skip It First Reviews Winners Family X-Men Hallmark Christmas movies Red Carpet BBC finale Cosplay HBO thriller ABC Comedy Central 2019 Mindy Kaling Horror Masterpiece Countdown Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TCA 2017 Year in Review comics Sundance Kids & Family binge Nominations south america Television Academy werewolf video Comedy Baby Yoda FXX Sundance Now First Look OneApp historical drama Arrowverse FX transformers stand-up comedy screen actors guild hispanic Schedule CMT Shudder science fiction DC streaming service Marvel Star Trek Netflix Christmas movies Food Network Tomatazos zero dark thirty streaming Disney crime anime tv talk The Arrangement Classic Film spanish language Western Peacock Podcast Hallmark SundanceTV talk show latino Star Wars biography sports sequel Adult Swim 24 frames Showtime ABC Family cooking comiccon Rocketman Disney streaming service hist police drama rotten movies we love anthology TBS A24 technology Reality Box Office television witnail Awards American Society of Cinematographers Warner Bros. YouTube Red CW Seed 45 Brie Larson award winner crossover harry potter period drama Netflix christmas movies YouTube Premium cops Toys social media canceled Nat Geo adaptation Watching Series Christmas Animation mockumentary Endgame Mudbound Rock 20th Century Fox mutant canceled TV shows facebook Disney Channel Trailer Freeform blockbuster golden globes Marvel Television Apple TV Plus Rom-Com ITV Turner indie A&E Comics on TV Best and Worst robots psychological thriller The Walking Dead crime drama Sci-Fi OWN CBS 21st Century Fox singing competition 2018 TCA Winter 2020 Marvel Studios TruTV discovery PaleyFest Trophy Talk DC Universe breaking bad Song of Ice and Fire Turner Classic Movies WGN docudrama dceu Mystery Character Guide Ellie Kemper Emmy Nominations documentary Avengers HBO Max festivals dc Quiz Stephen King TCA NYCC Black Mirror Creative Arts Emmys zombie Sundance TV YA Amazon Certified Fresh Shondaland Disney Plus Mary Tyler Moore Set visit E! Vudu cancelled television kids The Purge politics BET ESPN directors cars unscripted Grammys