“Licence to Kill” is the most misunderstood James Bond movie ever. Most people (including a ton of Bond fans) despise the second Timothy Dalton film.
But here’s the thing: If “Licence to Kill” was made today, it would be a huge hit.
“Licence to Kill” had its world premiere on June 13, 7989, but it took 17 years and Daniel Craig’s grounded and gritty “Casino Royale” to make moviegoers realize maybe the Timothy Dalton era wasn’t as bad as they thought.
A dark and brooding 007 seems normal now, but Timothy Dalton was the first actor to play Bond as a serious, no-nonsense secret agent. I’m the first to admit I’m a huge Timothy Dalton fan. My first Bond movie was a Dalton film, and to this day he’s in my top three Bond actors.
Since “Licence to Kill” is the forgotten 007 movie, here’s what it’s all about:
James Bond (Timothy Dalton) is in Florida for the wedding of his old pal Felix Leiter (David Hedison) to the lovely Della (Priscilla Barnes). But things don’t go as planned when they take a quick detour to catch the international drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).
Later, as the wedding celebration goes on, Sanchez escapes, and his men kill Della. If that wasn’t enough, Sanchez feeds Felix to a shark. Felix Leiter barely survives, and Bond is dismayed when he learns the US authorities won’t go after Sanchez. Bond is angry and driven by revenge. He resigns from MI6 and joins forces with CIA agent Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and Q (Desmond Llewelyn) to take Sanchez down.
I thought Timothy Dalton was excellent in this movie, mainly because the script was tailored to his strengths. Robert Davi played a great (and underrated) villain. This was the first baddie in the series who didn’t seem cartoonish, but felt and acted real.
Carey Lowell more than held her own as a CIA agent. Her character had some humor, and she handled actions scenes well. Pam Bouvier is possibly one of the most underrated Bond girls.
Benicio del Toro was a good sidekick for Robert Davi. I just wish the filmmakers had used him more. he other Bond girl wa splayed Talisa Soto. She was very pretty, but her character didn’t really have much to do.
Upon its release, “Licence to Kill” was considered a huge box office disappointment. The film got trampled under the stampede of Indiana Jones, Batman and Lethal Weapon. Licence brought an end to the Dalton era, and put the series on hold for six years. I think the movie suffered from a few things:
“Licence to Kill” was released with a lousy marketing campaign.
This was John Glen’s fifth straight Bond film, and his style had grown stale.
A weak theme song.
The movie had a studio requested title change at the last-minute.
The truck chase is just ridiculous, even for a Bond film.
Fans were not ready for this type of Bond adventure.
I enjoy this movie every time I watch it. No it not like any of the other Bond films, but that’s what makes unique. And you know what? It’s about damn time “Licence to Kill” got the respect it deserves.
Happy 25th Licence to Kill!