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Licence To Kill (1989)  rating

Review: written 2007

Licence To Kill (1989)

A real return to form for the flagging franchise, this movie represents a brave departure from the producers, bringing Bond back to Fleming's `blunt instrument'. Before Casino Royale, this is the previous attempt to have a Bond who gets bloodied and bruised, and whose own motivations are more important than duty to Queen and Country.

When Bond's CIA buddy Felix Leiter is fed to the sharks by drug baron Sanchez (a satisfyingly nasty Robert Davi) and his henchman (played by Benicio del Toro, in his first screen role), Bond goes out for revenge.

There are some spurious notes, such as the License to Kill being revoked, then just as easily being restored at the end of the movie, and there are some periods that flag a little in the pacing, due in part to the film taking itself a little too seriously for a Bond movie. However, when the action does start, there are some terrific set pieces; notably, the truck chase at the end.

In the acting department, aforementioned villains are fine, Wayne Newton has a cameo in a running gag as a phony tele-evangelist (Bless his heart), Q plays his biggest role in a Bond movie to date, and Talisa Soto plays the villains beautiful kept lady. If only she could act...

The female lead is the CIA agent helping Bond, Carey Lowell (Richard Gere's squeeze). It is a surprisingly strong role for a woman in a Bond movie, independent and Bond's equal in many ways, a far cry from the standard girl on the sidelines in a bikini crying `James, James!'.

Alas, at the time, the world was not ready for a non-humorous Bond, and while a success, it was less of a success than previous Bond movies, and there followed a gap of 6 years before Bond returned, without Dalton. It's a shame, because this is a movie worth rediscovering, as long as you can take your Bond without the one-liners and the smirk.

In its remastered form, the film is technically immaculate and the dts mix is crystal clear and uses sparing but effective surround effects, notably in the action scenes. John Glen reckoned this was his best work. I am inclined to agree with him. Despite being a little bit ponderous in places, I rate this highly for rediscovery.

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