Cinemalphabet: L is for License to Kill
In a previous entry called James Bond will return…or not I wrote this:
There are conflicting stories regarding the casting details of Brosnan and Dalton. In Dalton’s case, both sides have differing recollections regarding his casting, but all seem to agree that Dalton was considered for the role as early as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There was some back and forth for nearly TWO DECADES, with several other candidates – including Brosnan front runners for the role. When Brosnan was unable to be released from his Remington Steele contract the role was finally placed in the capable hands of Dalton, who has rapidly become my favorite Bond. Unfortunately, despite his stellar performances – the films themselves, The Living Daylights and License to Kill are ambitious but ultimately struggled to get audiences to fully embrace the new shift in the Bond paradigm – the franchise went off the rails again.
License to Kill has tons of superlatives. It marks the last appearance of Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond. In addition, License to Kill was the first Bond flick not based on an Ian Fleming novel. The first Bond film rated PG-13 and oddly enough the only Bond film (I’m aware of) to feature an alum from Three’s Company! I see you, Priscilla Barnes! It also marks the end of an era: the final appearance of Robert Brown in the role of M.
Thematically, the film shares a couple of key plot elements with Casino Royale:
- Bond’s 007 status in question.
- It gets “personal” for Bond.
- Bond is rage-y like whoa
Unfortunately, while highly enjoyable, License to Kill‘s plot is not nearly as complex or interesting as Casino Royale. Dalton is a fantastic Bond, but his strong performance only emphasizes the film’s numerous deficits. Everyone else – save Robert Davi – still seem to think they’re in a Roger Moore Bond film and are overacting their little hearts out. Not to suggest that Robert Davi’s ruthless drug lord Franz Sanchez isn’t a bit too over the top. He is, but I like Davi (not necessarily the actor’s political beliefs) so it doesn’t bother me the way it might someone who has a neutral to negative opinion of the actor (though I absolutely understand why folks might not like him). Davi’s Sanchez is essentially Powers Boothe as Tony Montoya. In fact, I’ve often wondered why Powers Boothe wasn’t cast as the Columbian drug lord, loosely based on Pablo Escobar. Neither actor is of Columbian descent so it’s not like the producers could claim it wouldn’t be “authentic”. In any event, Davi’s Sanchez is prototypically ruthless, though far too cartoonish a villain for Dalton’s Bond.
The Bond Girls – Talisa Soto and Carey Lowell – have surprising links to Julia Roberts! Soto married Roberts’ former boyfriend Law & Order cutie Benjamin Bratt and Carey Lowell married Roberts’ frequent on screen love interest Richard Gere! Neither actor is especially memorable or well cast in their dull roles. Carey Lowell is so 80s power woman I can’t believe she didn’t wear white scrunchie socks and sneakers with her evening and business attire during the numerous chase scenes. Soto, on the other hand, is given little to do besides looking good and being abused by Sanchez. And Sanchez’s associates. Lord help me! They are straight from you can’t make that shit up casting agency. Wayne Newton! Benicio Del Toro! Neither are any good, but both are unintentionally hilarious.
Sung by Gladys Knight (sans the Pips) is slow tempo jam which builds on the horn blast motif of Goldfinger and adds all that late 80s R&B goodness.