Newest Reviews
Flag Day
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster
Nest, The
Martin Eden
Halloween Kills
Sun Shines Bright, The
Last Thing Mary Saw, The
Mon Oncle d'Amerique
Wild Strawberries
Runner, The
Don't Look Up
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Forever Purge, The
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Legend of La Llorona, The
Perdita Durango
Commando, The
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Boiling Point
Deadly Games
Voyeurs, The
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
In the Earth
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hotel Poseidon
No Time to Die
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Power of the Dog, The
Newest Articles
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
  Licence to Kill aiming straight for your heart
Year: 1989
Director: John Glen
Stars: Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, David Hedison, Don Stroud, Desmond Llewelyn, Everett McGill, Don Stroud, Priscilla Barnes, Benicio Del Toro, Wayne Newton
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: On leave to serve as best man at the wedding of CIA chum, Felix Leiter (David Hedison), secret agent James Bond (Timothy Dalton) assists in capturing notorious, South American drug baron Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). Sanchez is freed by his compatriot Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe) and takes revenge by maiming Leiter in a shark attack and killing his wife (Priscilla Barnes). An enraged Bond tries to settle the score, but has his license to kill suspended by cautious superiors. Going rogue, Bond trails Sanchez to his casino and goes undercover as a gambler, with help from gutsy pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and good, old “Q” (Desmond Llewelyn). He romances Sanchez’s sultry mistress Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) and infiltrates the drugs factory, before the final, breakneck truck chase across the Mexican mountains.

Probably the most controversial James Bond movie, Licence to Kill was also sadly the lowest grossing and concluded Timothy Dalton’s brief tenure as 007. Although nowhere near as bad as its detractors claim, the film suffers from John Glen’s usual sluggish pacing, some awkward detours (subplots about contras and guided missiles go nowhere), and a tendency to want to have its cake and eat it. This was supposedly a harder-edged, grittier Bond, more in tune with the action movies of the eighties/nineties. The violence certainly bears this out: a procession of shark maiming, exploding heads, human fireballs, and a young Benicio Del Toro minced up in a grinder, that until recently were severely cut from most home video releases. Yet sitting beside these grisly details (which thrilled many a schoolboy in ’89) are some lapses into silliness: a pointless barroom brawl (which at least features that “mine’s bigger than yours gag” between Pam Bouvier and Bond) and a surreal interlude with Wayne Newton as the televangelist-style head of Olimpatec.

Bond himself was so bloodied and battered at the climax he drew the ire of British tabloids who realised - gasp! - Princess Diana would be at the world premiere. Can’t let the royals see that sort of thing. Some of this “realism” undercuts the allure of Bond. Post-détente, the makers felt Russian spies and hi-tech masterminds no longer cut it as Bond villains; but once you’ve faced an evil genius plotting to wipe out all mankind, a two-bit drug lord seems rather underwhelming. Nonetheless, Robert Davi (despite being described by one critic as “an evil Ted Danson”) is a menacing presence, Anthony Zerbe is suitably slimy, and there are further, worthy villainous turns from Don Stroud, Everett McGill and the aforementioned Del Toro.

In the long, hot summer of 1989, jostled between Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Licence to Kill struggled to make an impact, but is arguably the best Bond film of the eighties. It gets a lot things right. Timothy Dalton is exemplary, perfecting his intense interpretation of Bond; a hero who is moved when bad things happen to good people. There is a nice moment between him and Priscilla Barnes as Leiter’s intended, and long term fans will appreciate it’s the death of a bride on her wedding day that spurs Bond into action. His mission is most definitely personal. The pre-credits sequence with Bond and Leiter bungee-jumping from a helicopter in wedding tuxedos kicks things off in high style and the titanic truck duel that closes the film is thrilling. Moreover, we have two very alluring, contrasted Bond girls with Cary Lowell as the feisty, yet vulnerable action gal (a far better stab at a proactive Bond girl than Jinx in Die Another Day (2002)) and Talisa Soto as the glamorous, fickle, yet abused gangster’s moll. Plus any Bond movie that features the wonderful Desmond Llewelyn doing far more than just doling out gadgets can’t be all that bad. Let’s put one rumour to rest though. The original title - Licence Revoked - was not changed because American preview audiences didn’t know what “revoked” meant, but because they associated those words with having your driver’s license annulled. Besides, what kind of theme song would that make?

Click here to watch the music video
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 5909 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (2)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: