REVIEW: Licence To Kill (1989) - ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Licence To Kill (1989)


I’ve had a string of negative reviews on here lately, too much VODmit bringing down the tone.  So I’m going to delve back into everyone’s favourite decade, the 1980s of course.  This is a movie I’m quite fond of and it proves that even after the Roger Moore era, which was like a bad bender on cheap ale, even the action era of the ’80s forced Bond to get his act together.  To preface, I’m no Bond connoisseur, I really don’t know anything about the books or whether or not a certain movie is being ‘true’ to some piece of lore, I just take them as they come and this is one of the best.

We all know the story of this movie, as James Bond, Timothy Dalton sets out to avenge a stricken friend by taking on crime lord Robert Davi.  See, this is the first thing that draws me back to this Bond movie for repeated viewings over the newer stuff.  The plot is simple and when it’s simple, we can relate.  Who can really say that the stories in Daniel Craig’s recent movies have been even halfway believable?  That large, overwritten, silly plot of Skyfall?  I just found the whole thing tremendously boring, sorry.  This movie, Licence To Kill, came in the Die Hard era.  Hard yet simple men placed in hard yet simple situations.  No invisible cars to be seen.  Yes, that means you have been guilty too, Brosnan.

I like Dalton in this movie.  I don’t think he shows extraordinary range, but at no point do I think ‘such and such would have been better in the role at this time’.  He’s not my favourite Bond but, much as the fanboys might disagree, I prefer him over Craig and at least Dalton doesn’t look downright bored for much of his tenure.  Then there’s Robert Davi, man, what a fine villain.  Suave, sleazy, cool but just stopping short of outright scumbag, and all he wants is to carve out his own little (sort of) corner of the drugs trade.  There is no plot for world domination aboard a stealth battleship or a ploy to block out the fucking sun, or some shit.  But the guy, nonetheless, must be brought down.  And Dalton is the man to do it.

And who can say that the action isn’t great in this movie?  Driving an 18 wheeler on nine wheels?  If the producers of Bond were afraid of emergent movies like Die Hard, then the kind of slick and bold action seen in this movie was a safe response to it, if you ask me.  Thrilling, yet never insulting.

I would have made some alterations in the movie to be honest, for instance I would have killed David Hedison’s character off outright violently and at the start, just to give Bond a bit more vinegar in his pursuit.  I also would have given ‘Q’ some time off, the cornball gadget scene slightly lowered the tone and it gave me flashbacks to Moore’s camp winking at the screen.  They should have made the movie even more brutal, with nudity and they should have said, yeah, things are changing and we want to lead the way.

But still, as I understand it, this movie doesn’t always get positive reviews.  I can’t think why.  6.6 on the IMDb? While other Bond movies are held in much higher regard?  I think this movie is Bond’s manliest ever, even if I think GoldenEye is a somewhat better rounded outing.




  1. Mucho Macho

    May 10, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Throughout history Timothy Dalton has been given shit for his portrayal of James Bond. I disagree!!! I actually believe Timothy Dalton was a good James Bond and unfairly treated & criticized and as a result he is underappreciated and underrated as James Bond.
    Roger Moore what’s a bit silly in tone and in its approach towards the character. Dalton made it more of a darker spy, he was out for revenge, he was angry. I believe audiences at the Time were not ready for the drastic change in tone but he was Daniel Craig-esque if you will before Daniel Craig.
    Dalton’s 2 Bond movies, “Licence to Kill” & “The Living Daylights” are quite good IMHO

    • jim

      May 10, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Agreed. Dalton looks better and better.Cool and a bit mean.I thought Living Daylights was easily the better of his two outings.I’d like to have seen him do more even though I enjoyed getting a Paddy into the part with Brosnan. It’s true Moore was a bit of an ass but I must admit I kinda liked him. The jolly Roger was always a bit of a guilty pleasure.It was his Bonds that were always on tv as I was growing up.At Christmas they always showed a couple of Moore’s Bonds rather than Connery’s so to me he was sorta Santa Bond. Have you seen this? It’s a promo clip Moore did with Tony Curtis in 1971 for a tv series. Two oldschool playboy alphas who enjoyed being movie stars

      • Mucho Macho

        May 11, 2016 at 2:57 am

        Thats a great video..thanx for sharing it.
        *Btw..I dont dislike Moore. He was the actor that didnt act or looked at all like he could kick that much ass but I still enjoy his movies. He & Connery i believe did the exact amount of Bond movies. He was a cool Bond.
        Every actor brought Their own style, Their own personality to the character of James Bond. I was just commenting how unfairly I think Timothy Dalton got treated cause I believe he kicked ass as Bond.

        • jim

          May 11, 2016 at 2:39 pm

          I’m sure I’ve said this before but I don’t think we belong here mucho…We should be unapologetic players back there in 1971 trawling through the casinos and clubs hoovering up women……A-type ladies and E-Type Jags..Those boys knew how to live. They didn’t say sorry for a bad taste Buchenwald comment…and didn’t take offence at it either. Hard not to like these guys.

          • Mucho Macho

            May 11, 2016 at 9:41 pm

            Sometimes I want to get on a DeLorean, hit 88 miles an hour & visit, revisit & discover bygone eras.
            You would be an awesome time traveling patner.. so if you ever discover the time machine before I do …don’t forget about me😁

  2. Mucho Macho

    May 10, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Dalton’s first movie as Bond in 1987

  3. Mucho Macho

    May 10, 2016 at 7:33 pm

  4. Mucho Macho

    May 10, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    • Jacob Phillips

      May 11, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      I want to watch this now.

      • Mucho Macho

        May 11, 2016 at 9:42 pm

        I got ’em on DVD…its been a while..its time to rewatch them

  5. Mucho Macho

    May 10, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Benicio del Toro was a henchman in “Licence to kill”.
    He was so young. Btw…del Toro kicked ass in “Sicario” for those who haven’t seen it.

  6. Andymovieman

    May 11, 2016 at 12:35 am

    I watched it a couple of weeks ago. And it’s still a classic to this day. Robert Davi was one of the best villains in that, goonies, raw deal, etc. Can you believe he was considered to play Richter in total recall which went to michael Ironside? He would have been just as good.

  7. AlTeo

    May 11, 2016 at 2:05 am

    One of my favourite Bonds, definitely the most underrated in the entire franchise. The first 007 film to given an R-rating, only to be forcibly trimmed down to get the PG-13 rating. The uncut version was later rereleased in 2006 and retained the PG-13 film, but it’s still manly as fuck.

    It wasn’t just Dalton who made the film though, Hats off to composer Michael Kamen (composer of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon) who along with Dalton and director John Glen really gave the film the late ’80s/early ’90s swagger the franchise desperately needed after the Moore debacles. Too bad the audience didn’t see it that way, coming out in a crowded summer that had Lethal Weapon 2, Batman and Last Crusade.

  8. Barney Ross

    May 11, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    One of the best Bond films, almost R rated before it was cut by the pussy studio.
    Goldeneye is still my favorite, i love Tomorrow never dies too and the old ones with Roger Moore are hilarious..