Licence To Kill is one of those Bond titles I remember watching several times over the years and enjoying ok. When I think about it, all I can ever picture is someone getting eaten by sharks and a freakishly young Benicio Del Toro falling to his death down some kind of conveyor belt.
A re-watch later and that's still all I remember from that movie!
Not that it's bad, it's actually pretty decent, but something about it just fails to make it stand out from the pack for me. The plot is actually really good with Bond's long-time American pal Felix Leiter getting chomped on by the villain's sharks on his wedding day and Bond defying M by officially resigning from MI6 and going on a rogue revenge mission. Helping him on his quest is Bond girl #1 Pam Bouvier, played by Carey Lowell, who gets a strange, if yummy, makeover about halfway through and, believe it or not, Q who proves himself to be one hell of a friend by showing up mid-mission and helping out with gadgets etc. risking his own career in the process.
Robert Davi's Sanchez is our villain here, a ruthless drug-lord with a penchant for big blue boxes of dope and, of course, sharkies! Del Toro is his henchman which means his bone-crushingly unpleasant, bloody death is a given from the offset. Both make a very good bad guy duo and you do get a feeling that 007 is way in over his head and actually might not save the day (or will at least struggle to do it). Bond girl #2 is Talisa Soto's Lupe Lamora, Sanchez's girlfriend-ish, who is mostly there to give Bond a way to 'infiltrate' the guy's lair and complete an awkward, if irrelevant, love triangle.
As ever, Timothy Dalton does a good job as Bond and his more serious persona actually works well here since 007 has very little to joke about. Action-wise, the main set-pieces, with the exception of the admittedly very good opening sequence, sadly lack 'bite' (no shark pun intended). You've got a creative Roger Moore-esque water-skiing one and a decent enough truck chase near the end but that's about it really. For such a personal revenge mission, I would have expected something bigger and rougher. Although Bond, of course, gets his way and the ending is satisfying enough, this would have been a good opportunity to give Dalton a Die Hard-style balls-to-the-wall effort to sink his teeth into but I guess they were keeping that for Pierce Brosnan...
Licence To Kill is a good thriller with one of the best (read: least silly) Bond plots and does try different things with the familiar franchise. It's an involving installment with a strong cast but could have done with an even darker tone and a somewhat more epic scale. Still, it's a fine conclusion to the Timothy Dalton-as-007 years, the man leaving behind two very respectable flicks and a rather wet, messed-up cello case.
If you got that last reference, you sir/madam are a true Daltonite and you have my respect.
Great, now I have all the Roger Moore ones to sit through...