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The darkest, mort realistic and most violent Bond film yet, “Licence to kill” was Timothy Dalton’s second and last appearance in the role. Beginning with Felix Lieter’s wedding, the story takes a twist as Lieter is maimed by a shark and his wife killed. Bond vows revenge but M forbids his course of action, forcing Bond to become a rogue agent. He destroys one of Sanchez’ drug deals and gets away with five million pounds, before meeting Pam Bouvier, an ex CIA agent who he saves from an attack by Sanchez’ henchmen.
Bond is admitted into Sanchez’ inner circle where he learns that Sanchez is smuggling cocaine by dissolving it in petrol. Bond destroys the processing plant but Sanchez escapes in a tanker loaded with fuel. Bond pursues him and eventually ignites the fuel in the tanker, burning Sanchez to death.
John Glen returned to direct for one last time, with location shooting taking place in Mexico and Florida in the summer of 1988, this being the first Bond movie to do no filming at Pinewood. Robert Davi made Sanchez the most realistic Bond villain to grace the screen. He’s 100% believable and all the better for it. Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier is as tough as Bond himself, though somewhat humourless and Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora is largely forgettable though there is a great turn from Benicio Del Toro as Sanchez’ henchman Dario. Desmond Llewellyn is given more to do than usual as Q turns up, supposedly “on leave” to give unofficial assistance to Bond, who has had his 00 status revoked.
Maurice Binder designed his final title sequence for a Bond film, and the theme was sung by Gladys Knight, after a name change from “Licence Revoked”, the original title for the movie which was changed because apparently, Americans wouldn’t understand what it meant! The soundtrack came from Michael Kamen as John Barry was unavailable due to illness.
The movie is the most violent and gory in the series to date. A henchman is placed in a pressurised chamber and his head explodes, Felix is bloodily maimed and Sanchez’ death is surprisingly grotesque for a Bond movie as the drug baron burns to death in front of our eyes. Though many fans liked the radical new interpretation, in essence what this film has going against it the most is a lack of humour, realism being taken to an extreme and critical reaction was unenthusiastic with many arguing that the producers had junked the “style” of the franchise. It was also one of the least successful at the box office, making just $34 million in the states.
Though John Glen felt that this was his greatest achievement as a Bond director and the action sequences are as exhilarating as ever, this is a definite misstep in the franchise, feeling more like a standard thriller than a Bond film. The public were generally not impressed and due to legal wrangling, it wouldn’t be for another six years that James Bond would return…