Blu-ray Review: LICENCE TO KILL (1989)

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray release date: May 12, 2009
MSRP: $34.98
Stars: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi, Carey Lowell, Talisa Soto
Written by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum
Directed by John Glen
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 133 minutes

As iconic as James Bond has become at the movies, it’s easy for today’s fans to overlook the very human, hard-edged character created by Ian Fleming. If I had to pick just one Bond film to own, as a Fleming fan, it would be Licence to Kill.

Shortly before his wedding, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison) and his old friend James Bond assist the DEA in arresting Colombian drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). Sanchez promptly escapes custody thanks to a DEA turncoat and subjects Leiter to a vicious shark attack. Disobeying his superiors at the British Secret Service, Bond sets out to avenge Leiter.

No plans for world domination or global implications, just a personal revenge story well told.

The supporting players matched the tone set by Dalton. Carey Lowell as CIA pilot Pam Bouvier and Talisa Soto as casino dealer and abused girlfriend to Sanchez were not glossy gorgeous but looked as if they could actually do their jobs. Licence to Kill is also one of the rare times Q (Desmond Llewelyn) has an extended role in the field.

Unfortunately, Licence to Kill premiered at a time when the franchise was low on buzz. It didn’t do well at the box office, and what would have been Dalton’s third film in 1991 was postponed out of existence by litigation over the ownership of MGM, distributor of the Bond films. In the time between the expiration of Dalton’s contract and the choice of Pierce Brosnan to succeed him, I’m sure more casual fans forgot Bond.

Now that a grittier Bond is fashionable again, I hope movie fans come to appreciate the realism Dalton portrayed twenty years ago. This is also the last Bond film directed by John Glen (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights) and written by Richard Maibaum (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me…). Those who miss their distinctive marks on the series will want to take a second look.

The Blu-ray disc includes all of the features previously released in the James Bond Ultimate Edition DVDs, but unlike the DVDs, it isn’t bundled with a mixed bag of other Bond films.

–Gerald So