The Good: Dares to push the character relationships farther . . .
The Bad: Terrible direction/editing, Horrible acting, Painfully dull plot, Ridiculous characters
The Basics: License To Kill is a James Bond film that goes nowhere . . . poorly.
As I near the end of my reviews of the James Bond film franchise, (Tomorrow Never Dies is now the only one I have not yet seen!), it is funny what excites me about the franchise now. At the outset of License To Kill, I suddenly found myself irrationally excited by seeing Everett McGill (from Twin Peaks, reviewed here!), Anthony Zerbe (from Star Trek: Insurrection, reviewed here!) and Benicio Del Toro! For a franchise that has done so much, that License Of Kill lacked a strong plot hook (as opposed to performers who I recognized from other works), it was unsurprising to me that it underperformed at the box office.
Unfortunately, given how straightforward and surprisingly linear License Of Kill is, the excitement for the film pretty much begins and ends with the performers in it. Sadly, the initial excitement of performers who appeared in License To Kill quickly dissipated based on the performances they gave. License To Kill is one of the most straightforward and least exciting Bond movies. License To Kill is hinged almost entirely on the premise that James Bond would risk everything for his occasional CIA ally and counterpart, Felix Leiter.
Opening with James Bond preparing to act as Best Man at Felix Leiter’s wedding, the CIA Agent gets sidetracked with assisting with a DEA bust. They capture drug lord Franz Sanchez and manage to make it to Leiter’s wedding on time. Sanchez successfully bribes a DEA agent to orchestrate his escape. The drug lord then captures Felix and has a shark bite off his leg! Bond allies with Leiter’s partner, Sharkey, until M arrives and tells Bond to leave Key West. Revoking Bond’s credentials and license to kill, James Bond strikes out on his own to avenge Leiter and stop Sanchez.
Bond rescues Leiter’s last contact who knew about Sanchez’s operation, Pam Bouvier. Together, Bond and Bouvier travel to Isthmus City, where Bond hunts Sanchez. Bond uses the millions of dollars that he stole from Sanchez during his escape to pay Bouvier to get him to Isthmus City and open a line of credit at the bank Sanchez owns. Q comes to Bond’s aid with tech that he uses to stop a transaction that would unite Sanchez’s operation with an Asian syndicate.
License To Kill is riddled with problems, not the least of which is how Felix Leiter and Bond are treated as best friends in the film. Bond is recast throughout the franchise and the implication has been that James Bond is an alias – as are M, Q, and Moneypenny. By the same logic of recasting, Felix Leiter is also an alias, used by the CIA. License To Kill seems to want to defy the idea that Bond is an alias, by referencing that Bond was once married. It can be blown off as this particular Bond’s backstory, but the implication is more for the idea that this Leitner was with the old Bond when his wife was killed and that they are the same person.
The kicker in License To Kill is that Bond is monolithic and dull (more from the writing than Timothy Dalton’s performance) and Carey Lowell’s Pam Bouvier – while she might be played as over-the-top in a few scenes – is far more interesting. Bouvier holds her own with Bond, not simply succumbing to his charm . . . which is good because Bond is less-than-charming in License To Kill.
License To Kill is notable, as well, for the terrible direction and editing by John Glen. Glen makes some terrible cuts (like a person who is thrown out of a plane and barely falls before the shot cuts to something else) and uses some remarkably stiff takes. The stunts are so obviously choreographed that they look entirely unreal and the chases and shooting scenes are so poorly put together that frequently people aren’t even aiming in the right direction to make the shots they do.
Timothy Dalton is fine playing Bond as shaken, but it is not the highlight of his career. In fact, all the notable actors who appeared in License To Kill that I liked give mediocre, at best, performances. License To Kill is just all-around bad and a disappointment for both James Bond fans and anyone who likes quality cinema.
For other works with Robert Davi, please visit my reviews of:
The Expendables 3
“Simon’s Choice” - VR.5
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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