It’s been a tradition for a few years now, to watch a James Bond movie soon after Xmas. The reason is that I always put a 007 movie in Robin’s stocking. The tradition may be ending. We’ve done all the Sean Connerys (and Lazenby), and we already own several of the Brosnans and Craigs. And owning Blu-rays in the streaming era is more and more passé (when we opened her Blu-ray player to load in Licence to Kill, Diamonds Are Forever was still there from last year). Once in the VHS days, we watched every Bond movie, including the 60s Casino Royale, and we’ve kept that streak up ... there are none we haven’t seen, unless you count the TV episode back in the 50s. So I knew it wasn’t much of a present to get her one of the Roger Moores, which left the two Timothy Dalton movies. I like Licence to Kill best of those two, so that’s what she got this year, and I’ll just have to figure out something else for her stocking in 2017.
I remembered liking Dalton as Bond ... he reminded me more of the Bond of the books than his predecessors. And my memory of Licence to Kill was that it was more brutal, with a rogue 007 single-mindedly out to get revenge for his friend who had lost a leg to a shark. And indeed, it was the first one to get a PG-13 rating in the USA, although that’s a bit misleading, since the PG-13 rating was only introduced in 1984, and there had only been two Bonds since that time.
Watching it now, I didn’t feel it was particularly PG-13ish. Of course, our tolerance for violence has risen since 1989. Also, Dalton was certainly more brutal than Roger Moore, but Daniel Craig has since taken that throne away. Licence to Kill is one of the Bonds that tries to move away from the formula, but the truth is, the film is occasionally boring because of that. Licence to Kill isn’t intense enough to overcome the lack of goofiness.
Still, the action set pieces are strong, Dalton does a good job, and if Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto aren’t the best Bond Girls, at least they aren’t the worst. Robert Davi is fine as the villain, but his part suffers from its distance from the formula ... he doesn’t want to take over the world, he just wants to run his drug trade. A young Benicio Del Toro is good as the henchman, and Wayne Newton has fun with his bit part. It’s better than anything with Roger Moore, with the possible exception of The Spy Who Loved Me. 7/10.
My favorite Bonds: From Russia with Love and Goldfinger (9/10), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale 2006, and Skyfall (8/10).