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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Licence To Kill (1989)



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With Licence To Kill, the producers took Bond's seriousness too far -- which is preferable by far to injecting slapstick humor -- but the gruesome, violent result doesn't feel like a Bond film. That said, the movie stands on its own as an excellent spy adventure. This time out, an unfilmed scene from author Ian Fleming's Live and Let Die novel, where Felix is fed to one of Fleming's favorite predators. Felix is played by David Hedison, the only actor to play the CIA agent twice (the first being in Live and Let Die), a relatively smart choice. The rest of the story is Bond planning and executing his revenge. The few moments of casual humor are forced and out of place. Robert Davi plays an exceptionally strong villain, but his sidekick televangelist, Wayne Newton, is irritating. There are two Bond girls: Talisa Soto's character is fairly nondescript, while Carey Lowell's is independent and absurdly politically correct for the first half of the film, and a dim-witted whiny flake for the second. The production values are low, and the desert makes a poor set choice for the finale (recalling the film, one remembers all too well the dull, banal brown tones of the landscape). There are lots of great scenes, however, those of both action and characterization. It's difficult to top Bond's heroic escape from Milton Krest's boat, for instance. Caroline Bliss is fine in her second of two appearances as Miss Moneypenny, crusty Robert Brown makes his last appearance as 'M', and, regretfully, this was Dalton's last, too. After Licence, legal struggles prevented Bond from hitting the screen for another six years, the longest gap in the series ever. In that time, Dalton, considered by many Fleming purists as the best Bond, could have made two more films -- that loss will be mourned by Bond fans for a very long time.

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