Licence to Kill (1989)
September 10, 2015 5:58 AM - Subscribe

James Bond goes rogue and sets off to unleash vengeance on a drug lord who tortured his best friend, a C.I.A. agent, and left him for dead and murdered his bride after he helped capture him.

This is the 16th James Bond film adventure.

The Wikipedia entry. reviews Licence to Kill.
The James Bonding podcast (Matt Mira, Matt Gourley and guests Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci) covers Licence to Kill.

Some Top Critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times: "Every once in a while, [the Bond series] pulls in its stomach, pops the gun from its cummerbund, arches its eyebrow and gets off another bull's-eye. The newest, Licence to Kill, is probably one of the five or six best of Bond."

Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel: "If the series is ever going to return to its Connery-era glory, it definitely needs some new writers, ones who know how to streamline a story and keep the dialogue tight."

Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune: "Dalton revives the cool, ironic detachment of the Connery years, but he also allows a touch of obsession to show through Bond`s surface aplomb."

Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer: "With Dalton straightening out Bond for the second time, Licence to Kill continues the salvage operation begun in The Living Daylights and rescues a series that was in danger of shooting itself in the foot. With a Walther PPK, of course."

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: "The Bond women are pallid mannequins, and so is the misused Dalton -- a moving target in a Savile Row suit. For every plausible reason, he looks as bored in his second Bond film as Sean Connery did in his sixth."

Variety: "The thrills-and-spills chases are superbly orchestrated as pic spins at breakneck speed through its South Florida and Central American locations.
posted by doctornecessiter (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Okay, let me just toss this grenade into the room and say that I think this movie is incredibly underrated, and would put it very strongly in the top tier of the series.

You may berate me at your convenience...
posted by Naberius at 7:00 AM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's related to Bond generally rather than this movie specifically, but this article from the (honestly very good) blog The Suits of James Bond goes into detail about all the ties that Desmond Llewelyn wore throughout the series. I'm especially fond Llewelyn's habit of wearing ties that reference his own life, like ones for his boarding school's golf club or for the rugby and cricket teams he played for (which apparently is a thing that happened). I also love that he apparently had a whole history of who Q was worked out and tried to represent it through his ties.

In License To Kill he wore a number of ties, including a Brigade of Guards and Armored Guards ties (both of which seem to be references to They Were Not Divided a film Llewelyn was in and which was directed by Terence Young who later directed a few Bond films, including Llewelyn's debut outing in From Russia with Love.)

I'm also very interested in the red, grey-blue, and white striped tie. The article I linked to says the stripes on the tie are "reversed" (running down and to the left from the right shoulder rather than the other way), but what it actually means is that the stripes run in the American direction. I didn't get a chance to rewatch this one recently, but I remember License to Kill being largely set in the Western Hemisphere, so in my mind Q stopped by a Brooks Brothers on his way from London and grabbed a couple American ties.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:16 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Of course my favorite story about this movie is one I've mentioned before on MeFi so just skip this if you've heard it before. But Glidrose - the name of the Fleming estate at the time, now it's Ian Fleming Publications - had John Gardner doing Bond novels at the time, and a deal was worked out to have him do the novelization of Licence to Kill. Gardner had worked hard to maintain continuity with Fleming in his Bond books, and this presented a problem in that the inciting incident of the story - Felix being fed to the sharks, the whole reason for the rest of the story - was a bit that the screenwriters lifted from Fleming's novel Live and Let Die. Felix has to leave the CIA at that point, and for the rest of the series pops up from time to time in other roles. He worked for the Pinkerton agency for a while, for example.

So Gardner has no choice but to write about gangsters feeding Felix to a shark, but in his continuity, this has already happened. Rather than bail on his continuity, he just closed his eyes and barged ahead and in the novel version, this is indeed the second time someone's gotten the idea to feed Felix Leiter to a shark. Complete with the "he disagreed with something that ate him" gag. Bond finds him after the crooks dump him back home and is freaking out as portrayed in the movie, but notes that thankfully the shark seemed to have mainly just ripped up the prosthetics he had gotten after the first shark incident.

Mind you Gardner wasn't too happy about this. He wrote at least one more standalone Bond novel after this and disregarded this novelization. He also made no attempt to reconcile continuity regarding Milton Krest, who had appeared - and died - on his boat the Wavekrest, in Fleming's short story The Hildebrand Rarity.

So the continuity clearly doesn't line up, but I found it pretty fascinating that Gardner went ahead with a second identical shark attack. And I felt kind of bad for him. The shit you have to deal with to write James Bond...
posted by Naberius at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's related to Bond generally rather than this movie specifically, but this article from the (honestly very good) blog The Suits of James Bond goes into detail about all the ties that Desmond Llewelyn wore throughout the series.

It's more than averagely appropriate here, because this movie had a ton of Q in it, which was great. Why does the dark, brooding movie that features some of the most graphic violence you'll see in a Bond movie also have Q running around with a fake moustache operating a radio in a rake? Good question.

Individually, there were elements I liked. This isn't the first or only time there's been tension between Bond and MI6, but it might be the only time he was shot at by British soldiers, which definitely upped the ante considerably. Carey Lowell's character was kind of weird, but I will always appreciate any woman who gives Bond even a fraction of the shit he deserves. Having Wayne Newton was bizarre and delightful. There were probably too many evil henchpeople, but they all had some personality and got memorable moments. The aforementioned Q stuff is all great, and Desmond Llewelyn is clearly having a blast. At one point, you can catch Bond wearing a ratty old t-shirt, presumably for the only time in the series.

In the end, I think it doesn't work for me because they've spent the whole series treating Felix Leiter as a completely disposable character and now we're supposed to think that he and that other random guy who shows up in the limo have deep and important relationship with Bond. If you want to have continuity, go for it, and if you can't be bothered, that's fine, too, just don't half-ass it and expect me to care.
posted by Copronymus at 9:31 AM on September 10, 2015

I saw this in the theater and only remember four things about this film. 1. David Hedison returns as Felix Leiter. 2. Shark attack. 3. Gnarly pressurization death. 4. Bunch of tractor trailers at the end.

My parents probably shouldn't have let me see this one in the theater.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:32 AM on September 10, 2015

This is my favorite of the non-Daniel Craig Bond films, largely because of the song that plays over the end credits.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes! I love that song.

Note the soundtrack song is the original Patti Labelle version, not the higher charting Celine Dion cover from a few years later.
posted by Naberius at 7:16 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

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