Here’s my take on Licence to Kill. Please enjoy and leave me your thoughts.
I like Tim Dalton but in LTK, he have an important lack of charisma. I can’t help it I don’t like this film. Controversial ? I don’t think so.
I would say that it’s darker tone made it controversial among fans back in the day, but not as much since the Craig films came out…
LTK was a vast improvement on TLD.
Problem was that in trying to address the issues with TLD they threw the baby out with the bathwater. TLD’ tone, locations and wardrobe suited Dalton classical looks and style - it was just the script and workmanlike direction that sucked. So thankfully they beefed up the script with LTK, but but sadly they set it in a world that didn’t suit Dalton’s Bond.
LTK was trying to modernise by aping the look of Miami Vice which at that time was an established aesthetic that was being aped everywhere. This modernisation worked in terms of the script, locations and a more violent edge, but unfortunately Dalton seems highly out of place trying to seem ‘modern’ in pastels etc.
It was virtually a reboot, but needed a younger actor to pull it off. Pity they didn’t save the drug cartel plot for a new Bond and served Dalton better with a tone that suited him - slightly austere, classical and romantic; a Byronic Bond.
Something similar to TLD, but with a better script, fresh direction and a violent edge.
I don’t know that it’s the “darker tone” I dislike so much as the general feeling it’s grubby and low-rent. People compare it to “Miami Vice” to imply it’s derivative, but “Vice” generally featured more glamorous clothes, cars and sets than this film. I’d compare it more closely to a Chuck Norris or Steven Segal b-movie in looks and scope.
This was the first film where I really understood the criticisms that Glen’s directing style was “workmanlike” because until now – with maybe the exception of some stretches of AVTAK – there were always glamorous locales and sets to pretty things up.
I feel there’s a certain exoticism and sophistication to the world of Bond that sets the franchise apart, and without it, something essential Is lost. And while revenge makes for interesting stories, ultimately it’s not a realm where Bond works best. He’ll never beat the Segals and Bronsons, or even Buford Pusser, at their own game.
I enjoyed that merciless straifing of LTK
My only gripe is that Vice did indeed feature many grubby locals and characters. It contrasted the drugs bling/drugs grime realities constantly.
The reason Vice worked were LTK didn’t was the genius of Michael Man. If they’d gotten him to steer LTK results might’ve been far more interesting.
I agree that to the extent Vice worked better, it was down to style (courtesy Mr Mann). Not just the fashions, but also the cinematography, editing and use of contemporary music were all novel and creative for the time. The stories may or may not have been compelling or clever, but that’s more easily decided looking back decades later; at the time it was visually dazzling and innovative, appealing to the audience’s eternal quest for something “new and different.” (Though once that novelty wore off, they largely moved on).
LTK, for me, lacks that element of creativity and innovation, at least in terms of visual style. It looks like another John Glen movie, only with a third of the budget, right down to Bond’s off-the -rack suits from K-Mart.
In fairness, though, I was fairly engrossed in the story first time around, though I knew something was missing. I finally figured it out when Sanchez learns Bond is a British agent and says, “I knew it. You have class.” At the time I thought, “Based on WHAT, exactly?” Sanchez was not seeing Bond at anything like his best. Yes, he met him when Bond was wearing a tux, but so were others in the casino, and Bond’s didn’t even fit that well (and he topped it off with the kookiest coiff in the history of hair gel). I could only figure Sanchez had watched the previous film. (Logically, though, why would anyone think “British spy = Classy” unless they live a world where theaters show Bond films, which I would assume Sanchez does not?)
I should also note that my wife really liked LTK for the same reason it left me ambivalent: it didn’t feel like a Bond film. Even at the time, I realized it was an effort to reposition Bond for a new audience, and as a result I was willing to cut it some slack. It would have been interesting to see where the series might have gone had this entry met with more success. As it was, the lukewarm box office and subsequent (though unrelated) 6-year hiatus resulted in a retreat to formula, on steroids.
LTK is my birth year Bond film and I’m a big fan. I love Franz Sanchez - he’s my favourite villain. The tanker chase is the best set piece from his era, and the Bond girls are also fantastic. If you’re a fan of the Craig era LTK should be right up your alley.
To me, the main problem with the TLD is that it is really 2 movies in one and it doesn’t have a clear main villain. First, there is the (far stronger) cold war story dealing with the deceptive Koskov and then there’s Brad Whittaker’s absurd arms dealing. The locations are great and setting it against the backdrop of the mujahideen fighting against the Soviets works (in 1987, not so much now). However, neither villain is fleshed out very much and neither is very interesting. I think that if the opium sub plot had been dropped and the film retained more of its Cold War-thriller identity, it would have been a lot better. Also, Kara Milovy is just the worst.
If you do one thing today, watch this. The best fan made trailer I’ve seen in ages- LTK done MI: Fallout style. Utterly brilliant
CBn’s Licence To Kill tribute: http://commanderbond.net/19456/licence-to-kill-at-30.html
Fantastic piece of editing.
I always will be a fan of LTK. I admire the darker tone and Dalton’s performance. But I do admit to finding the film rather flat in parts after a recent rewatch. It doesn’t have the cinematic sheen that even TLD had. It does have a fantastic ending with the tanker chase, though.
If only more Bond films ended with that same bang.
My biggest issue with LTK is that it’s shot like a TV movie.
The dialogue is often a little hackneyed in Bond movies of yesteryear, but when the photography is also flat the two seem to magnify the shortcomings of one another; whereas usually the shortcomings of one at any given moment has the other to camouflage it.
A shame because LTK has a good Bond, a good villain and a desperate intent to push the envelope in some respects, making it sometimes maverick so that even when it misfires it’s still exciting in its ambition.
As was noted in CBn’s Licence To Kill piece, the whole film was shot on Moonraker’s budget. So the downsizing went into a realm where the studio rightfully could only expect below-par results. Did they even want the film to be made?
We know that after LTK the legal cage fight for the Bond franchise began in earnest. But it seems - from today’s perspective - that somebody at the top echelon was perfectly willing to risk the film to bomb. And pick up the pieces of the wreck afterwards as a steal…
Well that ‘somebody’ pretty much achieved the first part of those aims. No wonder Dalton decided not to do a 3rd (as has been suggested I these forums by folk that know more than me about the real shenanigans).
Completely agreed. Too many of post 1970 Bonds feel as if they peak about 2/3rds of the way through. But LTK’s climax (in a film that has a couple of rousing big set-pieces - basically both with the Wavekrest), is the best of the bunch, making LTK one of the rarer Bonds in that it accelerates to the finish. It’s a trait not shared with too many of the films on either side where the last act loses too much of the momentum those films have carried.
I agree with that, but with one or two exceptions.
The film directly after LTK… I thought GE had a cracking finale; a face off between the two 00s that didn’t disappoint. There was a brutal realism to the fisticuffs that hadn’t really been seen since Connery v Shaw.
Also a kinetic pace to the moves and the cut that felt like a very welcome update to the usual old fashioned bar brawls we’d been used to; finally Bond exhibited moves that he might have learnt post his Eton boxing days.
Of course this moved up again several welcome notches with Craig’s physicality.
GE also had a great finale setting and a classic time critical mcguffin. However, the remaining Brossa movies delivered exactly the kind of anticlimactic finale you describe. Only CR and SF have, imo, managed to buck that trend.
Watching LTK again recently, I thought Bond’s formal, top-hat-and-tails wedding gear in the PTS had a slightly comical air about it that brought to mind the Roger Moore years. Also missed John Barry on the soundtrack. And the cosy familiarity lent to the proceedings by seeing dear old Q out in the field seemed almost as incongruous as Sheriff Pepper would’ve been in this more sober, serious context. Nor did the ’007 going rogue’ idea, with MI6 men pulling guns on him, feel very satisfactory. Would’ve preferred to have M give Bond unofficial sanction to go after Sanchez. Something more along the lines of: “Get him, James”, M murmured quietly, when at last they were safely out of earshot, and those damnably clear grey eyes were full of unspoken understanding as, with a deftness born of long practice, this man whom Bond respected more than any other lit his pipe.
But Robert Davi did make a strong, Scaramanga-esque villain, Del Toro an effective henchman, and the lighter scene at the end was a nice, Sergio Leone-style moment (in keeping with the alleged Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars influence). And although appreciating Dalton’s more ‘literary’ interpretation of Bond, I can see how general audiences might have missed the customary ironic detachment which is, perhaps, an element of ‘star quality’.