This was the second and sadly final James Bond movie to star Timothy Dalton and is, in my opinion, one of the more underrated entries of the series.
Robert Davi plays a great understated, but very menacing Bond villain, although unlike the cartoonish caricatures of past Bond movies (not that I’m knocking them all mind you). He is a villain rooted in reality, as he is basically just a very wealthy drug dealer with a small army behind him, including a very young Benicio del Toro.
The plot of this movie is based loosely off of the Fleming novel “Live and Let Die” (which had been used earlier for its own movie back in the Moore era) and begins with the attempted murder of long time Bond ally Felix Leiter (and the actual rape and murder of his wife), who is nearly chomped to bits by sharks after being thrown in the tank by the bad guys.
When neither his own government or the Americans will help in this matter, Bond decides to go rouge and bring about his own personal brand of asskickery on these hooligans. Of course that not only means taking down said evil doers, but also banging their assorted wives/girlfriends.
This time out those roles go to Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto, who plays Lupe, the mistress of Robert Davi’s Sanchez character. Also watch out here for a hilarious Wayne Newton cameo in which he plays a cross between a televangelist, and a cult leader.
This Bond movie has all the usual hijinks, but is dialed down to a respectable level of realism (in the cinematic sense of the word, not to be confused with hyper-realism of the Bourne Identity variety) in which the action can still create suspense.
I love Dalton’s Bond movies in part because he was not the cornball jokester that Connery and Moore, and Brosnan at times could be. Of all the actors to play Bond, before Daniel Craig, Dalton seemed like the guy I could most believably see as actually being some kind of government assassin in real life.
It’s just a shame this was his final appearance in the role, as I think the franchise could have went in an entirely different direction had he stayed on, which is basically the direction it wound up going in with Craig a few decades later.
Licence to Kill gets a three out of five: GOOD.