Rocks Reviews: License to Kill
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi
Director: John Glen
Streaming on: Amazon Prime
Ahhh the Bond films. A sacred cow unlike any other. Make a Bond film and even if you make it about a mental news mogul secretly manipulating satellites to start World War III so he can sell some more papers, it’ll make 14 trillion pounds and the theme song will win awards.
Whilst the Craig era had its fair share of coverage, praise, criticism and ITV2 Premieres, with the mega-money purchase of the Bond catalogue by Amazon they are now all readily available for your delectation whenver you fancy, not just on any day ending in a ‘Y’ at 20:00 on ITV 4.
So why Licence to Kill? Simply put, I hadn’t watched it all before. I loosely remember the end sequence as being similar to Quantum of Solace with a big building in the middle of nowhere being torched whilst fighting a pre-pubescent Benicio Del Toro, but otherwise this film is new to me. I usually avoid Dalton when I’m picking films — for me, his bond is stuck somewhere in the rancid perineum between the cocks-out, brutish Connery and the ‘Carry-on-up-the-Bond’ Roger Moore, both of whom delight on opposite ends of the spectrum for their wit and on-screen presence. Dalton for me isn’t funny enough and comes across as the grumpy end of Daniel Craig — i.e the shit one.
The first thing to say about this is that it isn’t really a bond film. Bond films are when after an action packed opening sequence involving James delivering some one-liners and killing minorities, he sits in an office/car/commode whilst M gives him the old ‘Tell me 007, what do you know about XXXX?’ to which James replies ‘I majored in XXXX at Cambrige’ and away we go with large amounts of exposition and lashings of Vodka Martini. Yes the villain in this film is a bad guy, and yes, he probably needs stopping, but the motive behind Bond’s rampage is the death of Felix and his wife. That isn’t Bond. Bond doesn’t have friends.
Even in the opening wedding party, there is a bit where the bride offers Bond her garter as the person to catch it is the next person to get married. Here is a brief analysis of each Bond and what they would be doing at this wedding.
- Connery’s Bond would be nowhere to be seen at this point as he’d be hanging out the back of 3 bridesmaids
- Moore and Brosnan are sitting by the pool smoking big cigars and telling anecdotes
- Lazenby is serving the drinks
- David Niven is at another wedding for ‘Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film’
- Daniel Craig didn’t turn RSVP as he’s sitting in a darkened room looking at pictures of Vesper
Dalton’s Bond leaves — alone. He says he doesn’t want the garter. Lighten up Timothy you old git, you should be trying to cop off with Felix wife at the very least but no, you are an honourable man. And thus very very boring. Maybe if you weren’t such a boring twat you could have stopped Felix being battered and his wife being murdered, which happens right after he leaves them to count his stamp collection and is the catalyst for Bond going Death Wish.
There are large very enjoyable parts of this, particularly some of the characterisation. Milton Krest is the gin-addled associate Villain and plays it with a great degree of lazy-eyed aplomb, with his debonair attitude and oily no-fuck-given personality. Davi as the villain is positively sizzling as Sanchez. Given that in real life he is a certified piece-of shit, he channels it beautifully as a Kingpin of the drug trade trying to make as much money as possible. Which isn’t really the Raison D’etre for many Bond villains but it sort of works if you forget this is a Bond film.
We also get Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier) and Talisa Soto (Lupe) as more than capable female leads, operating from different sides but actually having some personality as opposed to purely being plot devices to charge some emotion in Bond. It’s a good thing as this version of Bond appears to have hit some kind of full-on emotional crisis, like a 40 year old man taking acid for the first time whilst watching a Gaspar Noe film.
I will give Dalton credit for the physicality of his Bond, who dispatches villains with all of the subtlety of a sledgehammer made of fuck-you. This is fantastic for some revenge killing and carrying out the overt inflammatory sabotage which he needs to to infiltrate Sanchez’ inner circle. It’s not quite so good when he’s in a full on Blues Brothers style pub brawl being charged by a man brandishing a sword fish. His movements and actions are far too mechanical for me. Again a brief Bond analysis:
- Connery goes full Begbie and starts biting ears off
- Moore uses snooker cues and makes endless puns about hitting villains ‘off the cushion’ or bemoaning their ‘Bad breaks’
- Lazenby is outside having a cigarette break
- Brosnan gets choked out so that he can do his famous ‘James Bond choking’ acting before using a laser lodged in his shoe to eviscerate a henchman
- Daniel Craig sits at the bar, continuing to drink whilst chaos flies around him then turns around and shoots the living fuck out of everything in the room, clutching a bottle of native rum.
All Dalton manages to do is to look startled and fail to make any kind of relevant quips as Bouvier bails him out. This does establish her as a complete badass (which makes Bond’s treatment of her increasingly baffling as the film goes on) but serves to make him look like a tit.
Anyway, long story short, Bond infiltrates Sanchez’ operation due to a misunderstanding involving the Hong Kong Narcotics squad and setting up Krest as a mole in the operation. This is pretty well done, and we get the utterly delightful sight of Desmond Llewellyn in the field as an operative, turning up an ruining Bond’s attempts to pump Bouvier. Bond spends about 30 minutes telling Bouvier and Q to piss off and leave him to his revenge as he lumbers about narrowly avoiding being killed and flouncing about like a teenager who’s just had his phone taken off him.
One thing I do absolutely love is the method by which Sanchez sells his cocaine, setting up a televangelist to send out coded messages by asking for donations to a church and the messages coming back in being deciphered by his accountant. This is genius and sets up the final act of the film as they visit the compound for the ‘church’ and see the drug making reveal, which is basically just that they can put the drugs in petrol and sell shitloads of drugs. No nuclear missiles on the moon, no killing the UN via pens made of Polonium, Sanchez is just going to sell drugs and keep on selling them until he combusts in a foie gras induced coma on his own private island as his third ladyboy bride tugs away on the fetid remains of his balls.
Anyway, Del Toro’s character Dario (who is also creepily excellent) recognises Bond from the swordfish bar brawl and the ruse is up as Bond is tied to some machinery which will crush him, only for Bouvier to rush in and save the day — again — and Bond gets to feed Dario into the same machinery. He sets fire to the lab before pursuing Sanchez by air and then truck, pulling off one of the most preposterous truck stunts ever conceived by anyone with a basic grasp of physics. The final face-off ends with one of the coldest deaths in the Bond canon, and I will admit this is deliciously good and matches the tone of the film completely before the obligatory ‘gets the girl’ ending featuring more Llewelyn and a lads holiday jump off a balcony into a pool.
If this wasn’t a Bond film, I would give it 6/10. The villain and elements of the plot are great, and there are some cracking deaths in particular. But Daltons Bond is such a moody fucking dickbag that it saps any kind of enjoyment from the Bond element. Bond is meant to be sophisticated and silly with a hint of anger. This Bond is Angry with a hint of drinking 8 pints of mild down his local before going back to his single bedroom terraced house and looking at the pictures of the kids his wife took away.
It’s a no from me.
Positives: Plot (not for this film), Villain (Not for this film), deaths, Q getting some additional plot
Negatives: Do I have to say it again
Rating: 6/10 (if this wasn’t a Bond film), 3/10 for Bond