Effective immediately, your licence to kill is revoked, and I require you to hand over your weapon.
Licence to Kill is directed by John Glen and written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson. It's an original story that uses characters and instances created by Ian Fleming. It stars Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Desmond Llewelyn, David Hedison, Benicio Del Toro, Frank McRae, Everett McGill and Wayne Newton. Music is scored by Michael Kamen and cinematography by Alec Mills.
Bond 16 and 007 goes rogue when drug baron Franz Sanchez leaves Felix Leiter mutilated and his wife dead. With licence revoked by MI6, Bond has to go it alone to enact revenge for the Leiters.
The controversial Bond for many reasons, Licence to Kill even today has been known to induce fearsome arguments in Bond fan circles. Not since On Her Majesty's Secret Service has a Bond film so polarised opinions. In one corner are the folks who determine it's not a Bond movie, in the other is those who say it's a stripped to the bone human Bond. You either love it or you hate it it seems. True to say that it is more an action thriller than a outright Bond film, no humongous sets, no megalomaniac villain (Davi's drug baron a very realistic menace) and of course there is Bond being pursued by those that have courted him previously as their number one agent. Yet there's a whole raft of scenarios that could only exist in a Bond universe, there's gadgets, too, for those that enjoy that side of Bond. Where else would you see a tanker driving on its side? Or exploding toothpaste and alarm clock, camera's that turn into weapons and a broom that is actually a transmitter? Not Bondian enough? Really?
Licence to Kill is a superior action thriller movie, the script is tight, the cast ace and the picture is crammed full of exceptional action set pieces. From the pre-credits sequence that sees Bond and Leiter enact a mid-air arrest, to the rather brilliant tanker carnage at the finale, the film rarely pauses for breath, and right there in the centre is a brilliant Dalton giving a rogue Bond plenty of layers. He's brainy and classy, fallible and driven, intense and tough, always sexy and always dangerous. Dalton's ability to convey raw emotion as each challenge comes his way is a real treat to watch. But most of all he is right there restoring Bond to being a serious action figure. What Bond fans didn't realise at the time was that it would be 17 years before Bond would be this raw again, then it would be heralded as a brave new start for Bond!
Another of the film's strengths is bringing back Hedison as Leiter, last seen playing the role in Live and Let Die, Hedison has great chemistry with Dalton and it's a joy to see Leiter play an active part in the action on screen. However, the makers do make a misstep by having Leiter be all too jovial at the end of the film, weird since he is minus a limb and his wife was raped and murdered by Sanchez's henchmen. Another big plus is Lowell's Pam Bouvier, a tough and brave Bond girl, sexy as heck, her pilot skills come in handy and she's no mug when it comes to brawling. Lowell does fine work in the role and keeps it away from being a token interest cliché. Davi keeps Sanchez as believable, a very driven drug baron who is cultured and funny, but always pulsing a vicious streak, while McRae has presence, McGill neatly keeps the cards close to his chest, Del Toro a nice line in nastiness and Soto is pretty as a picture and plays Lupe Lamora with skilled vulnerability. And of course there's Llewelyn as Q, who here gets a right old meaty role as he goes out in the field to become Bond's only aid from MI6. Again, not Bondian enough?
Licence to Kill saw the end of Dalton's tenure as Bond, legal issues between Danjaq and MGM/UA meant that no Bond movie would be made for another six years. By then Dalton had moved on to other work and was 51. It also marked the end of production duties for Cubby Broccoli, the final direction by John Glen (5 Bond films in total), Richard Maibaum's last script and the last performances by Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Moneypenney. One of the many misconceptions about the Dalton era is that Licence to Kill was a flop, it made $156 million worldwide, considerably down on The Living Daylights but more than A View to a Kill. A huge profit of over $100 million, this in spite of it being pitched against Batman and sequels to beloved American films by a studio head who had no idea how to market a film. The best actor to take on the role of Bond, Dalton's impact on the series cannot be overstated, he (rightly so) is very proud of his work in the two films and still talks very fondly of a role he respected beyond compare. 9/10