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Licence to Kill [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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LICENSE TO KILL (ULTIMATE EDITION) - Blu-Ray Movie
Timothy Dalton's second and last James Bond assignment in Licence to Kill is darker and harder-edged than anything from the Roger Moore years, dropping the sometimes excruciating in-jokes that had begun to dominate the series in favour of gritty, semi-realistic action. When CIA colleague and close friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison) gets married immediately after arresting villainous drug baron Franz Sanchez (with a little help from Bond), the crime lord's retribution is swift and terrible. Bond goes on a personal vendetta against Sanchez after his licence to kill is revoked. There are plenty of spectacular stunt scenes, of course, but the meaty story of revenge is this film's distinguishing feature. Dalton's portrayal of the iconic hero as tough but flawed was a brave decision that the producers subsequently retreated from after Licence to Kill's relatively poor box-office showing.
On the DVD: Timothy Dalton's insistence that Bond was a man not a superhero, and "a tarnished man" at that encouraged the producers to redefine Bond with a tougher edge more in keeping with Fleming's original conception of the character. Licence to Kill is Bond's darkest assignment. The production team experienced their usual difficulties in bringing it to the screen, the "making-of" documentary reveals, including a haunted road in Mexico and a mysterious flaming hand that appeared out of the fire during the climactic tanker explosion. There are two commentaries here, both montage selections of interviews from cast and crew. The first features director John Glen and many of the actors; the second has producer Michael G Wilson and the production team. Gladys Knight pops up in the first music video, Patte La Belle in the second ("If You Asked Me To"). There are the usual trailers, gallery of stills and a feature on the Kenworth trucks specially adapted for the movie's stunt work. --Mark Walker --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.
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Second and last for Dalton. Fifth and last for director John Glen. Last for Robert Brown as M. Last for Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny. First and last for composer Michael Kamen. First Bond movie to be given an adult rating (barely escaping an R in the US and cut to get a 15 in the UK). And, most importantly, the very last Bond movie to be released during the summer season. A fact that endures to this day as the studio now favors a late autumn/early winter slot. It also marked the last entry for over six years, the longest gap in the franchise, before Brosnan rebooted the character with Goldeneye.
Summer 1989 was very busy for moviegoers. Tim Burton's Batman, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters 2, and Lethal Weapon 2 were all pulling in huge business. For the kiddies there was lighter fare such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Franchise fatigue had set in with James Bond. The public had endured one movie every two years since 1962 and were looking elsewhere for thrills and adventure. No one cared for a mean and nasty Bond movie. The few who took a chance were turned off by the violence and sadism. Licence to Kill became the dark, very dark, horse of the franchise. If there is one kind of movie I adore above all else, it's the dark horse. This time around Bond goes Bad (with a capital B, you should notice).
The formula of a supervillain surrounded by scantily-clad women out for world domination being thwarted by gadgets and expensive cars is thrown out. Licence to Kill subverts viewer expectations on many levels and gives us an altogether different story for Bond (though perhaps a bit too familiar in regards to other 80s action movies).
After successfully capturing South American drug lord Franz Sanchez (a cool, smoldering performance by Robert Davi) in Miami series spook Felix Leiter (David Hedison, reprising his role from Live and Let Die) ties the knot with lovely wife Della. Sanchez does not plan to stay incarcerated for long and has soon corrupted the man bringing him in for trial. Immediately after being sprung from captivity he murders Della and mutilates Leiter by feeding him to a shark. The sight of a dead woman in her wedding dress opens old wounds for Bond and he relentlessly hunts down Sanchez.
M is having none of this and orders Bond to abandon his quest for vengeance or face the consequences. Bond promptly quits MI6 and goes rogue. In many ways it is Bond who is the villain of this film. As I said, Franz Sanchez is not a cartoon. He's simply a businessman looking to expand his empire. A man who believes in loyalty above all else. Look out for him and he'll look out for you. Bond identifies this crack in the armor and abuses it, squeezing himself into Sanchez's operation and destroying it from within. Sanchez does not have any ridiculous backstory or motivation, he develops as a character as Bond manipulates and exploits him. His confusion and naive sense of friendship the cause of many sad ironies. It's easy to forget that we are supposed to enjoy his downfall as Bond sets about wrecking his dreams and future.
Timothy Dalton absolutely kills it as Bond in LTK. His sharp, focused eyes and his cold, angry performance give us an insight into a whole new side of the character. Here Bond is stripped down, without back-up, with little to no weapons or gadgets, while winging his revenge plot on the fly. This is not the soft, dull-witted Bond of the Moore-era. Dalton is furious. Sanchez finally gives him a much-needed outlet for his pent-up rage over Tracy's death. You could go straight from OHMSS to LTK and completely skip over the silly Moore years altogether.
Thrown into the mix is Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, a CIA op with her own agenda against Sanchez. I had the biggest crush on her when I was 9-years-old. Her short hair and tall, slender frame really caught my eye more than Olivia D'Abo or Tanya Roberts. Bouvier is no bimbo either. She's feisty and smart, and the perfect match for Bond. Talisa Soto is also real easy to look at, but her wooden acting spoils it a bit.
John Glen is not much of a visual director, he was really just there to make sure that the cameras were switched on during these years. LTK is shot in lovely anamorphic Panavision with very high key photography. I do feel that the film could have benefited from more atmospheric intriguing camera-work and it sometimes comes close but for the most part this is same-old when it comes to aesthetics, and is the only noticeable similarity it has to the previous movies.
Michael Kamen's score might also sound familiar. It might remind you of Nakatomi Plaza specifically. Kamen's late 80s/early 90s signature is all over this one, which is appropriate since it IS the Die Hard Bond, sharing cast and crew members with the 1988 classic. The sign of a good Bond composer is one who knows when to just go totally crazy with the famous Bond chorus (something no Daniel Craig entry has done yet). The chorus marks the moment when 007 does something "Totally Bond". Here it's during the moment he wheelies through a fire in a big rig, the look on his face as he smacks down on top of another car proving that being Bad is so damn Good. Sadly, for some reason, it is the ONLY Bond score that has never had a proper album release.
Do not listen to the killjoys who say that this movie killed the franchise. Dalton did not kill Bond and Brosnan did not save him. Dalton only maxed-out the character and ended years of silliness. He was given a very short tenure as Bond but he managed to take him away from Moore and pushed as far as he could, as far as audiences would let him. If it were not for rights issues he would have got a third outing, but nothing could top this one. He goes for broke and cashes out, but not before leaving a solid, and definite mark on the franchise. LTK is a tough, nose-to-the-grinding block Bond movie that could have been taken a few steps further had Glen had the talent and flair to do so, but as it is this is still a very important entry in an innovating and enduring series.
The Blu-ray looks great in 2.35:1 1080p with DTS HD-MA sound. Extras are plentiful, including a great documentary on the movie which features the infamous "fire hand" photograph (watch and you'll find out).
Dalton's Bond is very stern and altogether without a glint of humour in this film. He goes rogue to revenge his friend Felix Leiter who has fallen foul of the powerful drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), very much in the same manner Craig's Bond would many years later. Leiter is played by David Hedison, who reprises the rolle from the film Live and Let Die with Roger Moore. Carey Lowell appears as the first real kick ass Bond girl, a sassy airplane pilot and secret agent in her own right. There is little humour in this dark tale of sharks, drugs, power and money laundering. What little comic relief there is, is provided by David Llewelyn as Q who has rather a marvelous part in this.
While the girls look stunning and Carey Lowell's character is rather fun and very ballsy, the real strength of the film is the acting of the two leads, Dalton as Bond and his rather formidable adversary played by Robert Davi. Anthony Zerbe is suitably sinister as the villains ally, and the very young Benicio del Toro may well be the sexiest henchman in the series.
For those only vaguely remembering the various older Bond films and looking for particular scenes, here a few memorable moments from the film (possible spoilers following, if you want to watch the film without too much previous knowledge, stop reading now): This is the film with the stingray tail, the shark tank into which victims are lowered, the decrompession chamber on the boat, and the spectacular chase down a mountain road with articulated fuel lorries. And the lizard with the diamond necklace.
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