Licence To Kill Review

Licence To Kill
James Bond (Dalton), ignoring the pleas of M, Q, and every other letter at Her Majesty's Secret Service, seeks out greasy tyrant Franz Sanchez (Davi) after he feeds Bond's mate to some killer sharks.

by Tom Hibbert |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1989

Running Time:

133 minutes



Original Title:

Licence To Kill

In the closing credits, betwixt cast and gaffers, we are cautioned: "As tobacco products are used in this film, the producers wish to remind the audience of the Surgeon General's Warning: Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy." Oh, dear, the fussbudget times we live in. Strangely, the producers do not see fit to add that falling out of aeroplanes, driving juggernauts over cliffs, swimming with killer sharks and shooting guns are quite dangerous pursuits, too. The "snout" warning serves notice, however, that James Bond has been brought "up to date" and the 60s fantasy figure—with his amoral, cynical approach to women and human life—has been remodelled to fit the caring, sharing 90s (or 1989, anyway).

Even the villains have been watered down. No Jaws, no gloriously mad Gert Frobe as Goldfinger, no loony Donald Pleasence, just Robert Davi as Sanchez. If he didn't have an iguana on his shoulder and a very bad complexion, there would be nothing much to tell us that Sanchez is an evil person at all: compared with the villains of old, Sanchez is, well, quite normal and not a proper sadist. When he feeds Bond's old chum Felix to the sharks, Felix lives to tell the tale, and when he depressurises a turncoat (Anthony Zerbe), he doesn't even pull a wicked grin as his friend explodes. Useless, really.

Some of the "style" of the 007 of old does, however, remain: there are corny, retrograde opening credits, there's the inevitable underwater frogman sequence ("directed and photographed by Ramon Bravo" — bravo!) where it's impossible to follow what on earth is going on and, of course, there's amiable secret service boffin Q (Desmond Llewelyn) who has, this time, invented some killer toothpaste (how, though, are you supposed to persuade an enemy to brush his teeth when you're attempting to do him in?). And there is Timothy Dalton who is really quite hopeless. Where Sean Connery was gruff, sardonic and oversexed and Roger Moore was sort of a ridiculous hoot, Dalton is, frankly, wood. Plant him in an Amazonian rain forest and watch the world climate perk up miraculously. He looks abashed delivering the J. Bond-styled one-liner chucklers— "Looks like he came to a dead end," he says stumbling upon a dead body. What a creep — embarrassed kissing the girls and thoroughly out of sorts when it comes to being violent with knife or gun. Timothy Dalton is James Bond. And James Bond is an utter bore. Time to turn the licence in.

He may look the part, but Timothy Dalton fails the boots, the scuba gear, or the automobiles left him by Moore and Connery.
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