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) 77%


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

Trophy Talk spain boxoffice Oscars AMC justice league supernatural science fiction strong female leads die hard razzies superman sequel slashers Cosplay cops Hallmark Christmas movies cats Martial Arts sitcom reboot Classic Film werewolf stand-up comedy latino ghosts pirates of the caribbean harry potter Super Bowl series The CW rotten movies we love HBO Max Mary Poppins Returns comic parents E3 TCA Winter 2020 Set visit FX Cannes Epix Black Mirror Amazon Studios Rocky Extras Turner Classic Movies Sundance Comedy Central space docuseries psycho cults Disney Channel Countdown cancelled TV shows Funimation batman Endgame james bond hist Spectrum Originals crime drama tv talk kids TCA LGBT 007 Mindy Kaling Pride Month movie spinoff PaleyFest spanish language joker dark CW Seed dogs The Walking Dead documentary Black History Month films cancelled thriller Western Winter TV Apple scorecard worst movies GoT National Geographic Grammys TCA 2017 Warner Bros. ITV Lucasfilm crossover Masterpiece discovery telelvision Fox Searchlight First Reviews Amazon OneApp American Society of Cinematographers Shondaland Pixar Bravo Character Guide Travel Channel documentaries comedies DC streaming service children's TV Toys Netflix Christmas movies LGBTQ Box Office BBC One blockbusters Discovery Channel Drama Hulu golden globes TV One franchise San Diego Comic-Con fast and furious name the review Ovation trailers MSNBC monster movies women See It Skip It GIFs Horror italian Heroines Premiere Dates ViacomCBS serial killer DC Comics jamie lee curtis Television Critics Association Holidays Red Carpet all-time zombie canceled 4/20 Arrowverse New York Comic Con Acorn TV comics Music BBC satire MTV TV Land Star Wars Watching Series aliens a nightmare on elm street Spring TV classics Lifetime Christmas movies Marvel Studios Esquire doctor who scary movies hollywood USA Network Disney+ Disney Plus 45 President Year in Review The Academy 20th Century Fox psychological thriller Musical hispanic Legendary festival anthology Britbox Certified Fresh unscripted black Sundance Now Paramount Sneak Peek Crackle Animation TCM Best and Worst BET Awards RT21 laika theme song The Purge Creative Arts Emmys Podcast VH1 singing competition TNT prank Avengers halloween nfl canceled TV shows sag awards Rom-Com Teen TruTV 2021 Rock Nat Geo Spike Mary Tyler Moore Hear Us Out facebook romance Quiz stoner Freeform YouTube Premium Trailer crime thriller DirecTV chucky ratings stop motion Fantasy Pirates TV SundanceTV diversity Tubi breaking bad SDCC political drama japanese ABC Signature Infographic based on movie Paramount Plus YA free movies Sci-Fi quibi football Exclusive Video Marathons 2015 Emmys Summer Alien Election Mystery Tumblr DC Universe FXX twilight Family what to watch comiccon A24 E! obituary indiana jones CBS All Access nbcuniversal police drama Showtime foreign remakes screenings Apple TV+ video on demand mutant Valentine's Day IFC Country cancelled television Tarantino Musicals First Look Brie Larson PlayStation historical drama Film Festival NYCC comic books cars spider-man Amazon Prime Video Syfy indie YouTube worst hidden camera Television Academy YouTube Red zero dark thirty anime Women's History Month rt archives Peacock 72 Emmy Awards Fall TV Schedule miniseries rotten romantic comedy Song of Ice and Fire El Rey Calendar period drama 71st Emmy Awards Comedy CNN RT History south america Food Network toy story Nominations medical drama Mudbound Holiday Video Games Disney USA A&E Walt Disney Pictures transformers Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cancelled TV series Mary poppins NBC Vudu 99% Captain marvel TLC Winners technology video Opinion Kids & Family sequels mockumentary Ghostbusters WGN Apple TV Plus Dark Horse Comics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards cinemax Logo The Witch TBS jurassic park dramedy french Stephen King renewed TV shows boxing television docudrama teaser Disney Plus APB zombies Writers Guild of America HBO book blaxploitation Film Cartoon Network 2018 halloween tv Adult Swim reviews composers GLAAD Amazon Prime game of thrones FOX DGA Paramount Network blockbuster Nickelodeon Disney streaming service 2020 Universal independent Hallmark politics kong MCU Biopics king kong Interview Star Trek ABC Sundance TV child's play universal monsters criterion BAFTA Action dragons Lionsgate robots news Shudder Lifetime concert revenge green book 2016 ABC Family popular The Arrangement TIFF VICE emmy awards directors Columbia Pictures mission: impossible Anna Paquin animated godzilla sports ID Pop dceu Fox News cartoon Starz crime ESPN superhero streaming Binge Guide Netflix dc Emmy Nominations binge VOD 21st Century Fox casting festivals Marvel versus Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt witnail 2017 Thanksgiving TV renewals TCA Awards talk show archives Christmas Comics on TV game show social media Pop TV Reality movies Ellie Kemper christmas movies spy thriller X-Men fresh Crunchyroll finale vampires Pet Sematary toronto Baby Yoda biography Turner true crime CBS Academy Awards elevated horror Polls and Games cooking disaster OWN WarnerMedia critics Trivia australia Superheroes deadpool SXSW FX on Hulu The Walt Disney Company Sony Pictures travel nature Tomatazos war golden globe awards CMT spanish Chernobyl Elton John rom-coms Awards Tour best 2019 BBC America asian-american kaiju HBO Go Comic Book venice award winner Marvel Television Superheroe adaptation Rocketman Awards Photos natural history Broadway IFC Films Reality Competition richard e. Grant adventure PBS 24 frames BET screen actors guild History