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.