License To Kill

License To Kill (1989)

The Cast: Timothy Dalton (James Bond); Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier); Talisa Soto (Lupe Lamora); Anthony Zerbe (Milton Krest); Robert Davi (Franz Sanchez)

The Supporting Cast: Robert Brown (“M”); Caroline Bliss (Moneypenny); Desmond Llewellyn (“Q”); Don Stroud (Heller); Benicio Del Toro (Dario); Wayne Newton (Prof. Joe Butcher)

Credits: Produced by Albert R. Broccoli; Directed by John Glen; Screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson; Music by Michael Kamen; Title Song by Gladys Knight; Filmed on location in Key West, Acapulco and Cherebusco Studios (Mexico City); Running Time 2 hours and 15 minutes

Villain`s Idiosyncrasy: Sanchezes loyalty leads to his downfall; love his pet Lizard more than his girlfriend.

Best lines: Bond to Killifer: “You earned. You keep it. Old buddy.”; Sanchez, on what to do with the money that has Krest`s brain matter all over it: “Launder it.”

Box office: $156,200,000.00 (worldwide gross); $213,202,244.28 (1999 dollars adjusted for inflation)

License To Kill starts off with a whimper, steadily builds up a nice pace through the Key West sequences and then falls apart immediately when the story moves to Isthmus. The film begins when South American drug lord Franz Sanchez slips into United States territory in an effort to snatch back his wayward girlfriend, former Miss Galaxy Lupe Lamora. Lamora has escaped to America with one of Franz old business buddies, Alvarez, and Franz wants her back. Meanwhile, tipped off to his presence, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison), along with 007, go after Sanchez in hot pursuit, despite the fact that Felix is due to be married in less than an hour.

Caught in the middle of trying to escape, Sanchez aborts his mission to get his girlfriend and instead, commandeers a light aircraft and takes off for what we are to presume as Cuba. 007, always thinking ahead, devises an ingenious scheme to reel Sanchez`s plane in. Needless to say, 007 saves the day, and gets Felix to the church on time.

I`ve tried to keep the summary of the pre-title sequence brief, but it`s hard to do. There is quite a lot going on all at once . Director John Glen tries to shuffle the storylines of Della Churchill( Priscilla Barnes) waiting impatiently at the church, 007 and Felix changing plans, and Sanchez trying to escape all at once. It comes off disjointed and just does not flow evenly and smoothly enough in the alloted time of 8 or 9 minutes. The whole sequence should have been fleshed out and expanded after the credits were over. Instead, a plotline that should`ve taken a good 15 minutes to go through and nurture is squeezed into just a little over 9.

After a terrible title sequence and a completely flat tune sung by Gladys Knight, we see Sanchez trying to worm his way out of captivity with one of his famous million dollar bribes. This particular scene highlights some of the worst acting in the film. Both Everett McGill and Robert Davi are good actors who have moved on to other projects, so one can only assume that the fault for this scene lies with John Glen not being demanding enough.

Milton Krest, who uses a marine biology center as a front for drug smuggling, has to come in and help set Franz free. Before leaving back for his home country, Sanchez takes an opportunity to extract revenge on Felix Leiter, by feeding his legs to a shark and having Felix`s newlywed wife raped and murdered. Fun for the whole family, right?

The film gets a nice steady pace going, intermixing lavish action sequences with plot advancement. Then the film switches locations, and the whole thing becomes bogged down.

Much of the prerelease hype for the movie concerned the locations to be used (Key West and Acapulco) the villains (a drug lord who likes to whip his victims) and, as usual, the Bond Girls (one of whom has a “mysterious past”). None of these particular elements are played out to their maximum advantage except for Key West. The beauty of Mexico and it`s culture are inexcuseably squandered, as the producers decided to have Mexico double for a fictional South American country called Isthmus.

Even more interesting is the lack of the whip used by Sanchez. After a brief glimpse of it in the first minute of the film, it disappears for good, thus taking away the one idiosyncrasy that would help this villain stand out. Ex-bush pilot Pam Bouvier is supposed to have a mysterious past, but it`s just a minor footnote to the film that has little to no real signifigance to the plot. The `Pam` character is never fully developed and seems totally out of place in this story. Is she a tough talking, strong-as-nails bush pilot, or a jealous schoolgirl, who can`t stand seeing Bond with another woman? There is so little consistency to the character that it becomes a distraction.

There`s a whole host of minor Bond villains to be found in the supporting cast, including Wayne Newton of all people, but none are worthy of more mention than this. None stand out. Roger Ebert, when reviewing this film, mentioned that it had an `incomplete feel to it, as though something were missing `. He`s right. Coherent and fluent dialogue are missing. Transitional scenes are missing. Motivation for the characters actions are missing. A compelling plot that held the balance of the world at stake was missing. Why did the producers choose to do another film that centered around drugs so quickly after The Living Daylights? Though Richard Maibaum contributed to the script, a writer`s strike, which he honored, forced him to withdraw his particpation any further in finishing up. Though Richard was a great writer, it`s doubtful that his full participation in `License` would`ve made much difference. The film was a bad idea, poorly conceived, poorly written and poorly acted at a time in particular that couldn`t have been worse for the Bond series.

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