Saturday, 27 October 2012

Licence To Kill (1989)

On his wedding day, Felix Leiter (aided by James Bond as his best man) brings in Colombian drug lord Franz Sanchez. However, Sanchez escapes and exacts a terrible revenge on Leiter and his new bride Della. Frustrated that nobody will do anything, Bond vows revenge- but has to step outside the bounds of his license to kill to do so.

There’s no messing around here, from the very beginning we have balls-to-the-wall action. We are in a different world to the usual Bond film; this is grittier, much more real. Gone are the grandiloquent plans of world domination and exotically-named villains, we are in a very real and very violent world of drug dealers- Sanchez is a man who would cut out a love rival’s heart as soon as look at him so murdering Della and feeding Felix to a shark is par for the course. Robert Davi’s performance is chilling and full of quiet menace. He’s yet another Bond villain with a penchant for sharks. The drugs network is hidden via televangelism messages done by Professor Joe Butcher, played with silky charm by former Vegas showman Wayne Newton.

Dalton is an absolute revelation here, a bundle of rage and determination. There are several subtle nods to Bond’s previous marriage and there’s a lovely moment when Della offers her garter, as the next one to catch it will wed, and Bond gently refuses. He is unrepentant in his disposal of Killifer, callously throwing the suitcase of blood money to weight him down. The scene where Bond is stripped of his licence to kill is just amazing (incidentally, Robert Brown gets his finest hour as M in that scene).. Bond uses a combination of brawn and brains in his vendetta- not only physically punishing people but also casting the seeds of doubt in Sanchez’s mind as who to trust. The physical and mental strain of the mission is writ large over Bond by the end of it. There are some amazing action sequences, especially with the tankers at the end.

David Hedison returns to the role of Felix Leiter for the first time since Live And Let Die (he is one of only two actors to play the role of Leiter more than once) and his easy camaraderie with Dalton is a pleasure to watch. Such is that relationship that, when Felix is attacked, you are absolutely on Bond’s side with his desire for revenge. Q ends up going to Isthmus City (on Moneypenny’s behest) to help equip Bond in his fight against Sanchez. It’s great to see Desmond Llewelyn get an extended role and his relationship with Dalton is slightly different to that of other Bonds- there’s an avuncular concern for 007 (which may be due to the age difference between the two men)

The two Bond girls are on opposite ends of the scale. Talisa Soto gives a great performance as Lupe, Sanchez’s girlfriend. Well, girlfriend may be a very generous term; she’s more his possession. She is desperate to leave him and forms an attachment with James hoping to get out. Carey Lowell is also great as Pam Bouvier, a former army pilot. Bond meets up with her in s scuzzy bar where she’s packing a sawn-off shotgun; she can certainly handle herself. The chemistry between her and Dalton is positively electric which adds another dimension.  She won’t take any nonsense at all which is just brilliant.

Make no mistake, this is a grown-up revenge thriller totally deserving of its 15 certificate. It’s also one of the most intelligent, gripping and engrossing films made in the 1980s and one of the best Bond films.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


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