LICENSE TO KILL (1989)
BOND: Timothy Dalton
DIRECTOR: John Glen (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights)
BOND GIRL(S): Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier); Talisa Soto (Lupe Lamora)
COOL GADGETS: A machine gun that only operates when Bond holds it.
THEME SONG: “License to Kill,” sung by Gladys Knight. Oddly, I hate listening to this song on its own, but as used in the opening credits, I kinda dig it. Still, lyrics like “I’ve got a license to kill, and you know I’m coming straight for your heart” are pure cheese.
IMDB PLOT SUMMARY: James Bond leaves Her Majesty’s Secret Service to stop an evil drug lord and avenge his best friend, Felix Leiter.
ICONIC MOMENTS: Felix Leiter has half his leg chewed off by a shark. Bond goes rogue.
FUN FACTS: 1st Bond movie to be rated PG-13, and it earns that rating. This is pretty violent compared to what’s come before. The PG-13 is most evident when Benicio Del Toro gets ground up in a meat slicer.
VERDICT: License to Kill may not be the strongest Bond movie, but it hits a couple of undeniable sweet spots for me as a viewer that help give it a leg up. First, the title is awesome, right? Probably the most perfect Bond-ian title – it’s amazing it took them this long to use it. Second, it combines two of my favorite storylines in action movies: the “this time, it’s personal” mission, and the over-the-top ’80s drug subplot. The decision to have Bond avenge the death of Felix’s new wife and near-death of Felix himself is a brilliant one. Having Bond go rogue and cut ties with M is also interesting. The narrative thrust of this movie is sharper and more intense than most other Bond movies. Sure, it kind of loses its footing in the middle section. Both Bond girls leave a lot to be desired in the acting department, and their performances play as amateurish at times. But I like seeing The Goonies‘ Robert Davi play the heavy. I like Benicio playing an unhinged henchman. And I really like the Michael Kamen score, which can’t help but spring to mind fond memories of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, which he also scored. This is the Bond series’ attempt to keep pace with those kinds of action movies. It may not always succeed. Indeed, anytime the filmmakers try to bring back signature “Bond”moments, they feel forced and out of place. But this is one of the more memorable movies in the series, if only because it deviates so far and so often from what makes Bond, well, Bond.