Bullet Points: Licence To Kill
The 1989 feature Licence to Kill was the James Bond film that single handedly brought gritty 80s action to the series and also killed the franchise for an extended period. After producing a Bond film almost every two years, the series took a six year hiatus. There are many theories for the long break. Some say the fall of communism eliminated the need for spies and spy movies, some say it was the lackluster box office results against blockbusters like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, and Lethal Weapon 2, but I am pretty sure the reason was the choice of the British spelling of licence instead of the palatable license.
Licence to Kill starred my favorite James Bond, behind Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig, but ahead of George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton. This was Dalton’s second go around as Bond after The Living Daylights, but you might remember him from the 1975 spy film Permission to Kill. Dalton doesn’t get the respect he deserves as he brought a harder edge back to Bond that was more in line with Ian Flemming’s literary Bond and the Connery and now Craig portrayals. However, coming after Roger Moore’s quick quipped Bond and the reasons stated earlier, he wasn’t appreciated by the ticket buying public.
Licence to Kill has all the features that all James Bond films need: villainous villains; exotic locales; cool gadgets; crazy action stunts; and beautiful Bond Girls.
- Villainous Villains: Robert Davi plays the main villain Franz Sanchez, who like a lot of 80s action villains is a drug kingpin. He is wealthy and ruthless, but is loyal to those who help him. As a bonus, if you like your Bond villains to appear in the 80s Carl Weathers vehicle Action Jackson, like Davi, look for Bond to have a fight with Branscombe Richmond in the Barrelhead Bar. Sanchez’ main henchman is Dario, played by Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro. Professor Joe Butcher is a televangelist whose operation is really a front for the Sanchez drug empire. None other than Gaming Hall of Famer Wayne Newton plays Butcher with a perfect level of camp, bless his heart. Other Sanchez sycophants include Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), the double crossing FBI agent Ed Killifer (Everett McGill) and the money man with the superfluously hyphened name Truman-Lodge (Anthony Starke.)
- Exotic Locales: The action in Licence to Kill happens in two main locations, Key West, FL, and the exotic fictional country of Isthmus. The filming in Key West is heavy on underwater footage that is reminiscent of Thunderball. There are pussies galore with a clowder of the six-toed variety at the famous Key West landmark Ernest Hemingway House which is being temporarily used by M. Mexico doubled as the country of Isthmus, which has a bank, a casino, and a palatial compound with its own funicular all owned by Sanchez. Isthums is also home to the Olimpatec Mediation Center, in real life the Otomi Ceremonial Center, which is the home to Prof. Butcher but hides the evil-villain styled drug lab.
- Cool Gadgets: Q brings several gadgets to help out Bond during his visit to Isthmus, an exploding alarm clock, Dentonite explosive tooth paste with cigarette detonator, x-ray Polaroid camera with a laser, and a camera gun with an optical palm reader, which if you saw the same exact palm reader in Skyfall, you know only Bond can use. While not necessarily a gadget, the manta ray suit used by Bond is right up there with the scuba bird hat in Goldfinger and the crocodile suit in Octopussy for fake animal assisted espionage.
- Crazy Action Stunts: Bond films must have crazy unbelievable actions stunts, but Dalton was able to bring more believability that he could actually pull off the stunts over the aging Roger Moore. Licence to Kill does not fail on the stunts, and other movies have obviously taken notice. Bond and his good pal from the CIA, Felix Leiter, use a helicopter and a wire to snag in mid-air a plane flown by Sanchez. Bane from The Dark Knight Rises must have been taking notes because his henchman used almost the exact same technique to rescue him. After being caught, Sanchez has his men rescue him on the Seven Mile Bridge outside of Key West, which True Lies decided to copy years later. There is an extended chase scene with semis that has Bond only using 9 of the 18 available wheels thanks to a conveniently placed ramp on the road and then popping a wheelie in a semi through an exploding tanker. Other notable stunts and action scenes have Bond water skiing behind a plane and jumping from a plane to moving vehicles without a parachute.
- Beautiful Bond Girls: There are two main Bond Girls who swoon over James, but both show their toughness as action heroines. Talisa Soto plays Lupe Lamora, the unhappy girlfriend of Sanchez who helps Bond. For those who love movies based on video games, Soto is most recognizable as Kitana from the Mortal Kombat franchise. Carey Lowell plays Pam Bouvier, the CIA informant who has a vendetta against Sanchez. She is the best looking Bond Girl ever to drive a semi. Special recognition to Della Leiter, the wife of Felix, who is murdered shortly after their wedding, played by third blonde in Three’s Company, Priscilla Barnes.