Hot on the heels of the generally fine but flawed The Living Daylights, comes Timothy Dalton’s second and sadly last outing as secret agent James Bond (that said, some hardcore Bond fans may have some cause to consider Dalton as never truly being Bond, particularly in this vengeance-themed story- he’s hardly doing his duty for his country here, its all strictly personal and contrary to orders).
Licence To Kill is a film about revenge and its consequences. The film greatly benefits from having the one thing Dalton’s previous entry sorely lacked- a really great villain, and with drug baron Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) the film has one of Bond’s very best. Captured in the film’s first action sequence by Bond’s CIA buddy Felix Leiter (David Hedison), Sanchez breaks out of police custody and gets his bloody revenge on Felix. Felix’s wife is murdered (and possibly raped/tortured in the process but that’s not really elaborated) and Felix himself nearly tortured to death by being fed to a shark. Bond goes after Sanchez, seeking revenge of his own and defying MI6 orders. Bond is working outside of British Intelligence, ignoring the fact that he has been stripped of his licence to kill. Its a cold, ruthless Bond here, one far removed from that of Roger Moore’s outings, a Bond that plays to Dalton’s strengths and reduces the weaknesses shown in his previous Bond entry (his awkward romancing for instance- Dalton’s Bond is a colder hero, far from the ‘smooth-operator’ of Moore).
Continuing the films huge improvements over The Living Daylights, we get two great Bond girls- Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), an associate of Felix who assists Bond in his pursuit of Sanchez, and Lupe Lamora (Taliso Soto), Sanchez’s reluctant girlfriend. Both women are excellent, more than just beautiful eye-candy, they both move the plot forward, something that can’t always be said of Bond films before or since. The physicality of the film is something that wouldn’t return until the Daniel Craig editions. Bond is beaten and bleeding as a result of his many fights and stunts here, certainly shaken and stirred if you will forgive the pun. Yes its violent but its a violence with consequences as opposed to the cartoon-like escapades of, say, the Roger Moore films.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will go so far as to say that its one of my favourite Bond films. It’s just such a shame that outside forces would give the franchise severe problems that resulted in Dalton’s tenure as Bond being over. What might that third Dalton film have been? We’ll sadly never know. In a way its OHMSS all over again. The Bond series breaking bounds only to fall back into the ‘comfort-zone’ of past entries.