Licence to Kill (1989) is the sixteenth official entry in the James Bond series, and the first one not to use an Ian Fleming novel's title as its title. While enjoying a generally positive critical reception, it was the first James Bond film to be given a PG-13 rating in the United States and also the first to gain a 15 rating in the United Kingdom, being noted as significantly darker and more violent than its predecessors. Due to these issues, as well as marketing problems including a last minute title change, Licence to Kill had poor US box office returns, making just USD$34,667,015, barely more than its estimated USD$32,000,000 budget, though it performed well overseas.
This was Timothy Dalton's second and final performance in his brief tenure in the lead role. Legal wrangling over control of the series and James Bond character resulted in a six year long delay in production of the next Bond film which resulted in Dalton deciding to not pursue a return. It is also the final Bond film for actors Robert Brown (as M) and Caroline Bliss (as Moneypenny), screenwriter Richard Maibaum, title designer Maurice Binder, cinematographer Alec Mills, producer Albert R. Broccoli (he would later act as a consulting producer for GoldenEye before his death) and director John Glen.
The story opens with Bond and his friend, CIA (agent) Felix Leiter (David Hedison), on their way to Leiter's wedding to Della Churchill (Priscilla Barnes). Meanwhile, DEA agents spot drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) flying near The Bahamas(Lahore Pakistan ), and a Coast Guard helicopter collects Leiter and Bond in an attempt to capture Sanchez. They do so by attaching a hook and cord to Sanchez's plane and pulling it out of the air with the helicopter. Afterwards, Bond and Leiter parachute down to the church and make the
wedding ceremony on time.
|Franz Sanchez, drug lord from the Republic of Isthmus.|
Later that day, bribed DEA agent Ed Killifer (Everett McGill) assists Sanchez in escaping. That evening, Leiter and Della are captured by Sanchez's henchmen; Leiter is maimed by a shark as his wife is killed. After hearing the news of Sanchez's escape, Bond returns to Leiter's house to find Della dead and Felix alive but severely injured. Bond begins his revenge by pushing Killifer into the same tank with the shark that maimed Leiter.
M (Robert Brown) meets Bond in Key West's Hemingway House and orders him to an assignment in Istanbul, Turkey. Bond refuses the assignment and subsequently resigns. M refuses his resignation, saying, 'We're not a country club, 007!' However, he suspends Bond and immediately revokes his licence to kill. Bond quickly escapes MI6 custody and becomes a rogue agent, bereft of official backing but later surreptitiously helped by armourer Q (Desmond Llewelyn).
Bond boards the Wavekrest, a ship run by Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), Sanchez's key lieutenant, where he ruins Sanchez's latest drug shipment and steals five million dollars in cash. In Leiter's records which were stored on a CD-ROM, Bond finds details of a rendezvous in Bimini with Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), an ex-CIA agent-pilot whom he meets in a bar. Sanchez henchman Dario and his team arrive at the bar, ostensibly to kill Bouvier. A bar brawl erupts, but Bond and Bouvier escape, with Bond convincing Bouvier to assist him in his mission.
Bond and Bouvier journey to the Latin American country of the "Republic of Isthmus" (a fictional country loosely based on Panama, which is known for its Isthmus of Panama), where he finds his way into Sanchez's employ by posing as an assassin looking for work. Back in the hotel he is supported by Q, who is on leave and arranges Bond with some gadgets. Bond attempts to kill Sanchez from an abandoned building, using a sniper rifle and C4 supplied by Q. While peering through the telescopic sight, he observes Bouvier talking to Heller (Don Stroud) and handing him an envelope. He detonates the charge, knocking the bulletproof window of Sanchez's office. However, before he can shoot Sanchez, he is attacked and incapacitated by two agents in ninja garb. He awakens tied to a table to find out his captors are, in fact, undercover Hong Kong narcotics agents trying to infiltrate Sanchez's operation. They are joined by Fallon (Christopher Neame), a MI6 agent who was sent by M to apprehend Bond either dead or alive. Bond is about to sedated via injection and sent back to England in disgrace when Sanchez and his men raid the building and kill the agents. They find Bond unconscious, still tied to the table.
Next morning Bond wakes up in Sanchez's mansion where he informs Sanchez that those men were freelance assassins and were worried that Bond would've warned Sanchez of their plans. Later, with the aid of Bouvier, Q, and Sanchez's battered girlfriend Lupe (Talisa Soto), Bond manages to frame Krest after 007 places the remaining five million dollars into the decompression chamber on board the Wavekrest, making him appear disloyal to Sanchez. Sanchez traps Krest in a hyperbaric chamber and then suddenly depressurises the chamber, causing Krest's head to expand like a balloon and explode; meanwhile, for Bond's perceived loyalty, Sanchez admits him into his inner circle.
After an overnight stay at his villa, Sanchez takes Bond to his base, which is disguised as a meditation retreat (not before Bond sleeps with Lupe). Bond learns that Sanchez's scientists can dissolve cocaine in gasoline, and then sell it disguised as fuel to Asian drug dealers. The buying and selling are conducted via the American televangelist Professor Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton), working under orders from Sanchez's business manager Truman-Lodge. The re-integration process will be available to those underworld clients who can pay Sanchez's price. In addition, Sanchez has brokered a deal to buy Stinger missiles from the Contras, and has threatened to shoot down an American airliner if the DEA interferes in his operations. During Sanchez's presentation to potential Far Eastern customers, Bond is recognised by Sanchez's henchman Dario (Benicio del Toro), who met Bond in Bimini and knows Bond to be against Sanchez's interests. Trying to escape, Bond starts a fire in the laboratory which spreads to the whole base; despite this, Bond is re-captured and placed on the conveyor belt that drops the brick-cocaine into a giant shredder. Pam Bouvier arrives and distracts Dario, while Bond kills him by pulling him into the shredder. The two flee the base as it explodes. Sanchez also escapes, with four tanker trucks full of the cocaine/gasoline mixture and his Stinger missiles, and Bond pursues them by plane with Bouvier at the controls.
|James Bond transferring from a Piper Cub plane to a tanker truck.|
In the course of a stunt-filled chase, Bond destroys three of the four trucks and kills many of Sanchez' men. An irate Sanchez kills Truman-Lodge (Anthony Starke) in exasperation. Bond and Sanchez fight aboard the final remaining tanker, which ends up out of control and then rolls down a hillside. Sanchez, soaked in gasoline, mocks Bond (who is injured from the fall), telling him that he could have "had everything", and prepares to kill him with a machete. Bond distracts him by asking him if he wants to know why he destroyed his drug empire. Bond produces his cigarette lighter - the Leiters' gift for being the best man at their wedding - and sets the villain afire. Sanchez, burning alive, stumbles into the wrecked tanker truck's cistern, causing its gasoline to ignite. Bond flees before the massive explosion. Pam arrives driving one of the two remaining trucks and drives them back to Isthmus City.
That night, a party is held at Sanchez's former residence. Bond receives a call from Leiter telling him that M is offering him his job back. Later in the party, Bond chooses to reject Lupe's advances, suggesting the country's president (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) as a better match, and romances Pam Bouvier instead.
James Bond henchmen in Licence to Kill and List of James Bond allies in Licence to Kill
* Timothy Dalton as James Bond: An MI6 agent who has his Double-0 status revoked.
* Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier: An ex-Army pilot and CIA informant.
* Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora: Sanchez's girlfriend.
* Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez: Main antagonist. The most powerful drug lord in Latin America, mentioned as having been wanted by the DEA for years.
* Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny: M's personal secretary.
* Benicio del Toro as Dario: One of Sanchez's henchmen who kills Della Churchill.
* Anthony Zerbe as Milton Krest: Sanchez's henchman who operates Wavekrest Marine Research.
* Frank McRae as Sharkey: Friend of Felix Leiter and owns a boat charter business.
* Everett McGill as Ed Killifer: A corrupt DEA official, working for Sanchez.
* Wayne Newton as Professor Joe Butcher: Sanchez's middleman and TV evangelist for Olimpatec Meditation Institute.
* Anthony Starke as Truman-Lodge: Sanchez's financial advisor.
* Desmond Llewelyn as Q: Supplies Bond with various gadgets and helps him on the field.
* David Hedison as Felix Leiter: Former CIA agent, now with DEA.
* Don Stroud as Colonel Heller: Sanchez's head of security.
* Priscilla Barnes as Della Churchill: Felix Leiter's bride.
* Robert Brown as M: Head of MI6, revokes Bond of his Double-0 licence.
* Grand L. Bush as Hawkins: DEA Agent and Bond ally who opposes Bond's vendetta.
* Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Kwang: A ruthless Hong Kong Narcotics agent sent to infiltrate Sanchez's heart of operations.
* Christopher Neame as Fallon: An MI6 agent sent by M to arrest Bond, dead or alive.
* Diana Lee Hsu as Loti: A female Hong Kong Narcotics agent working with Kwang.
Much of the film was shot in Mexico in Mexico City and the Florida Keys. In the film, the Republic of Isthmus was a fictional South American country, based on Panama. Mexico was used to double for this location. Shooting ran from July 18, 1988 to November 18, 1988.
In Mexico City locations included the Biblioteca del Banco de Mexico for exterior of El Presidente Hotel and the Casino Español for the interior of Casino de Isthmus whilst the Teatro de la Ciudad was used for its exterior. Churubusco Studios was used as a sound stage and production base. Villa Arabesque was used for Sanchez' lavish villa which was filmed in Acapulco, and the La Rumorosa Mountain Pass in Mexicali was used for the filming site of the tanker chase. Sanchez's Olympiatec Meditation Institute was shot at the Otomi Ceremonial Center in Temoaya. Other underwater sequences were shot at the Isla Mujeres near Cancún.
|Seven Mile Bridge|
In the United States filming was done primarily in the Florida Keys, notably Key West. Seven Mile Bridge towards Pigeon Key was used for the armoured truck driving off the edge. Other locations there included Ernest Hemingway House, Key West International Airport, Mallory Square, St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church for Leiter's wedding and Stephano's House 707 South Street for his house and patio. The US Coast Guard Pier was used to film Isthmus City harbour.
Licence to Kill is the only James Bond film to date not to have used a film studio in the United Kingdom during production, though post-production and sound re-recording was carried out at Pinewood Studios. This is also the first Bond film to be rated PG-13 in the US and 15 in the UK; all previous films were PG in both countries. Violent scenes had to be trimmed in both the UK and US (albeit somewhat less so) to avoid a higher classification.The uncut version is available in the James Bond Ultimate Edition DVD range.
Licence to Kill (soundtrack)
Initially Eric Clapton and Vic Flick were asked to write and perform the theme song to Licence to Kill. The theme was said to have been a new version based on the James Bond Theme. The guitar riff heard in the original recording of the theme was played by Flick. The prospect, however, fell apart and Gladys Knight's song and performance was chosen. The song (one of the longest to ever be used in a Bond film) was based on the "horn line" from Goldfinger, which required royalty payments to the original writers. The music video of "Licence to Kill" was directed by Daniel Kleinman.
The title sequence was the last one designed by Maurice Binder, who had created the title sequence for Dr. No and every Bond film from Thunderball onward. He died before production began for the next Bond film, 1995's GoldenEye. Kleinman would be selected to take Binder's place beginning with GoldenEye.
The end credits feature the Top 10 R&B hit "If You Asked Me To", sung by Patti LaBelle. In 1992, the song was covered by and became a Top 10 pop hit for singer Céline Dion.
John Barry was not available at the time due his throat surgery so, the soundtrack's score was composed and conducted by Michael Kamen, who was known for scoring many action movies at the time, such as Lethal Weapon and Die Hard.
Accounting for inflation, Licence to Kill is the least financially successful James Bond film in the U.S., although its worldwide income was greater.Producer Michael G. Wilson (in the DVD commentary) says the production was difficult because of budget control consequent to the over-spending for Moonraker, that did not account for inflation. Moreover, changing the filming locations from China to Mexico and the five-month WGA strike, preventing screenwriter Richard Maibaum from completing the script, left the screenplay writing to Wilson.The websites Entertainment Weekly
Producer Broccoli said he disliked the poor marketing of Licence to Kill, which was significantly affected by a late title change. Promotional materials by the artist Robert Peak, based on the Licence Revoked title, were inspired by Timothy Dalton's realistic, hard, portrayal of James Bond. The delayed, corrected advertising, by Steven Chorney, in the traditional style, limited the film's pre-release screenings. Moreover, Licence Revoked was simplified to Licence to Kill because American test screening audiences did not understand its meaning, however, in the documentary, Inside Licence to Kill, narrator Patrick Macnee says the reason is that to Americans "license revoked" denotes lost driving privileges.
The film received generally positive reviews upon release, garnering a 71% "Fresh" rating on www.rottentomatoes.com. Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of 4, saying "the stunts all look convincing, and the effect of the closing sequence is exhilarating... Licence to Kill is one of the best of the recent Bonds. " James Berardinelli gave the film three stars out of four; in reference to the poor box office, he stated, "Licence to Kill may be taut and gripping, but it's not traditional Bond, and that, as much as any other reason, may explain the public's rejection of this reasonably well-constructed picture." Raymond Benson, the author of nine Bond novels, said of the film: "It boggles my mind that Licence to Kill is so controversial. There's really more of a true Ian Fleming story in that script than in most of the post-60s Bond movies." Director John Glen says it is his best Bond film. Nowadays it it considered on of the best 007 films because of its gritty realism and performance by Timothy Dalton.
1989 British Coronet Books paperback edition.
The novelisation of the Licence to Kill screenplay was the first since Moonraker in 1979. Then-current Bond series novelist John Gardner novelised the Michael G. Wilson-Richard Maibaum screenplay — a great challenge, because his stories follow Fleming's continuity (albeit updated); Felix Leiter already had lost an arm and a leg to a shark in the Live and Let Die novel, an incident recycled in Licence to Kill. Resultantly, in the chapter "Lightning Sometimes Strikes Twice", the novelisation requires reader acceptance of Bond dealing with Leiter's twice being maimed by a shark; however, Gardner does not attempt to reconcile the presence of Milton Krest, (who was murdered in The Hildebrand Rarity short story).
The relatively faithful novelisation adds detail to resolve some issues around the film's more fantastic elements, notably explaining the unrealistic behaviour of the 'Stinger missiles' on-screen. It also differs from the script in places: (i) Bond uses a Walther P38K, not a Walther PPK (as in the film), because SIS had replaced it, a fact in Gardner's Bond novels; (ii) Q has an extra scene (occurring while Bond is at Sánchez's Olimpatec Meditation Institute), wherein he joins a police captain in raiding Sánchez's house. Although he then had written eight Bond novels, the novelisation was Gardner's first work featuring Q; before Licence to Kill, Q was heard of, not seen in his novels, having been replaced by his assistant, Ann Reilly, Q'ute. The novelised Licence to Kill story occurs before Win, Lose or Die, wherein Bond is promoted to Captain (in the novelisation and the film, Bond is a Commander).
Licence to Kill was adapted as a 44-four page, colour graphic novel, by writer and artist Mike Grell (also author of original-story Bond comic books), published by Eclipse Comics and ACME Presss in hardcover and trade editions in 1989. The adaptation closely follows the film story, although the ending is briefer, and James Bond is not drawn to resemble Timothy Dalton.