Bond 16 is Dalton’s second outing in the role.
Straight into the action, Bond assists Felix Leiter (David Hedison) to apprehend sadistic drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) on Leiter’s wedding day (he is due to marry Della Churchill, played by Priscilla Barnes). Leiter is working with the DEA to get to Sanchez, which is a pity, because shortly after being arrested Sanchez is able to escape after bribing a DEA operative Ed Killifer (Everett McGill) to assist in an escape. Once free Sanchez sends his cronies to deal with Leiter and recover any evidence, they he might have had. They start by murdering his wife and before throwing Leiter to the sharks – quite literally. Upon learning about what happened to his friend Leiter, Bond decides not to do the mission he was scheduled to do, and instead go after Sanchez. This of course annoys MI6, which M (Robert Brown) makes clear to Bond. After refusing to do his mission, M strips Bond of his active double-o status, his license to kill and his weapon, but this inadvertently makes Bond a more dangerous person. Once he escapes from MI6 he starts the hunt. In an attempt to get a lead, Bond, along with Leiter’s friend Sharkey (Frank McRae) infiltrate Sanchez operation to discover that he is smuggling cocaine. After making some waves here, Bond tracks down one of Leiter’s assets, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) for further support in tracking down Sanchez. He makes a deal with her, but not before escaping the clutches of Sanchez henchmen. In order to get to Sanchez he goes undercover, pretending to be looking for work – an assassin for hire, he is helped by Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto), Sanchez’s mistress. His cause is aided when MI6 agent Fallon (Christopher Neame) foils Bond’s attempt to assassinate Sanchez and they capture Bond. Bond is inadvertently assisted by Sanchez’s men when they break in thinking that the MI6 agent who has captured Bond is the person who attempted to assassinate Sanchez. It looks to them like Bond might be an asset seeing as they share the same enemy. While working both sides of the law he also gets support from Q (Desmond Llewelyn), who manages to track him down to supply him with gadgets – he also gets a bit of field work himself. Bond manages to cause trouble within the organisation by framing drug runner Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), planting $5million dollars in the hull of his drug running ship – this natural annoys Sanchez. As he’s in the inner circle now, Bond is taken to Sanchez’s base of operations, which is fronted by a religious cult. Bond learns that Sanchez has scientists have cracked the ability to change the structure of the cocaine into diesel, which can be reverted back to powder easily enough – this making it easier to smuggle. One of Sanchez’s henchmen, Dario (Benicio Del Toro) recognises Bond from Bond’s first meeting with Bouvier – the cover is blown, but Bond has already started a chain of events that will destroy the plant. Sanchez escapes in a tanker that was due to ship out his diesel-cocaine, Bond takes pursuit. At the end of the film, at a party, Bond is reunited with Leiter, Lamora and Bouvier. He’s offered his job back as a double-o.
There was a quick turnaround between “007: The Living Daylights” (1987) and “License to Kill”, this was due to the box office success of the former. Albert R Broccoli was quick to chat with Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum about its successor. They liked and wanted to keep the realism that Dalton’s first outing brought, but they wanted to explore the darkness the Dalton’s first outing brought too. John Glen directed this film, his last outing as director of a Bond film. It had a budget of $32 million and grossed $156 million at the box office. With a runtime of 133 minutes this is one of the longer films in the franchise, but it has a great pace and its jam packed with action from start to finish. Although the plot is not directly from a book, aspects and themes are taken from the novelised Bond’s, for example; Leiter’s mauling by sharks is taken from the “Live and Let Die” novel, while the Milton Krest character was taken from the short story “The Hildebrand Rarity“.
It is noteworthy that John Barry was not available to reprise his regular role as head of music; instead, Michael Kamen got the honour. There is a noticeable difference in the musical score that appears throughout, but not one that negates the film in any way at all, just more synth-jazzy. Kamen worked with Gladys Knight for the song “License to Kill” which opened the film, while Patti LaBelle’s “If you asked me to” appeared on the closing credits. The casting in this film is great. I am a big fan of Dalton as Bond, although I know that he isn’t everybody’s favourite. While this performance is darker and grittier than “The Living Daylights”, I prefer him in that film rather than this. Still he manages to capture an almost unhinged version of Bond in this that is out for revenge.
Carey Lowell did lots of research for her role; she did not see herself as typical and glamorous Bond girl. Her performance was great, and she comes across as a powerful feminine character, she does have her own agenda at times, but at the heart of her actions is goodness. Another person that heavily researched their role and then brought a great performance was Davi. He took inspiration from Columbian drug cartels, and also from the “Casino Royal” novel. He wanted to play Sanchez like Fleming described Le Chiffre, but with a Medellin Cartel influence. Tina Broccoli, which proved another success as it was her that convinced Albert R. Broccoli into selecting Dalton as Bond in his first film. Davi actually helped in the casting process too. He selected Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora from twelve other people. After doing some mock rehearsal as part of the audition, his justification for picking her was that he “would kill for her“. As Felix Leiter, David Hedison returns, some sixteen years after her last played the role in “Live and Let Die“. Keep an eye out for Benicio Del Toro who became the youngest Bong villain in the franchise at 21 years old in this.
In the reoccurring roles, Desmond Llewelyn shines as Q in this film, he is given more of a role than in other films as he comes into the field to help Bond. Robert Brown is once again M, who really does carry off the annoyed boss vibe when he revokes Bond’s license to kill. Caroline Bliss reprises her role as Miss Moneypenny again too. This film would however prove to be the last for Brown and Bliss.
I enjoyed this film; it may not have been considered a commercial success in the US but it was received differently World Wide. John Glen the director stated that this was his favourite of all the Bond films he’s been part of due to it gritty realism, but it’s that gritty realism that put some audiences off – expecting a tongue in cheek Bond but getting an intense version instead. They needn’t worry though; this film was the last of its generation with lots changing before the next installment would occur. Dalton would have been in the frame for the next one but legal disputes and delays would mean that he retired from the role before “007: Goldeneye” (1995) so this is in fact his last Bond appearance. It was also the last time for a few others too; writer Richard Maibaum (who wrote on 13 Bonds) died, director John Glen stepped away after this, Robert Brown would no longer be M, nor would Caroline Bliss appear as Miss Moneypenny either. So, more of an action thriller than a typical Bond film, there is lots of action and violence, there is an absence of certain humour, the Bond girl is a strong female, and the film is based on a more realistic set-up than previous films. This is a criminally underrated film in the franchise, and its one I really like. I hope that with the emergence of the Daniel Craig portrayal of Bond, some fans who have previously dismissed this film revisit it and find something in it for them. This film is no less realistic than any of the modern Bond films circa 2015-2020, nor is it any less violent or intense. This film was a fair reflection of the times and one that might be more relevant today than people think.
Title Song: License to Kill – Gladys Knight
In terms of Bond films this is a 8 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 7 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking
|1||007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|2||007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: License to Kill (1989) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|3||007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|4||007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|5||007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐|