What is it about James Bond films that set them apart from other action/adventure films? That question could be debated for years. Personally, I think they transcend the norm by adding an air of mythos & magic. Creating a universe where a governmental operative can exist alongside a metal toothed giant, a homicidal imp and a woman named Pussy. There are bigger stakes to deal with usually, or at least bigger antagonists. License To Kill forgets that formula and subjects us to a 007 film that just feels false.
In License To Kill, James Bond goes rogue due to his quest for vengeance. And though this is a similar set up to films like Quantum Of Solace and…(GROAN)…Die Another Day, Craig was at least battling a mysterious organization while Brosnan was tracking a Diamond Faced baddy bent on global destruction. Dalton is fighting a drug dealer named Franz Sanchez. That’s it. A LACKLUSTER adversary for the world’s greatest secret agent to put it lightly. Even Kananga in Live And Let Die was more interesting than Sanchez. With as many megalomaniac, eccentric, psychopaths Bond has defeated before, a drug dealer who harmed his friend seems like a lame reason to quit MI6. And seeing that the friend is fellow government agent Felix Leiter, I don’t see how things could logically escalate to that. The CIA and MI6 could eradicate this poor Scarface rip-off from the face of the planet in less than two seconds. Now, I don’t want to reenact my Brave review and rewrite the entire story. But, if they had a more scary, untouchable threat and had Bond and Leiter teaming up to get him while both on the run from their respective governments, that would be a film I’d want to see. We don’t really get that here. Leiter has been a walking talking missed opportunity of a character for the entire franchise’s run. You finally set him up with some semblance of a story, but then sideline him for a majority of the film. Even head henchman Dario’s most interesting quality is that he’s played by Benicio Del Toro. He sits out a majority of the film as well. These aren’t big stakes or big antagonists.
The only character that positively stands out is Pam Bouvier, played by Carey Lowell. She is strong willed, able to handle herself, and serves a purpose to the story. She has very good chemistry with Dalton, and even though her character’s affinity for Bond feels rushed, the payoff for their romance isn’t. I can’t say any of those things for her Bond girl co-star Talisa Soto. Lupa Lamora is easily my least favorite Bond girl of all time. She is just a put upon, abused, weakling of a character. Does Bond try and rescue her from Sanchez’s clutches? No, not really. Does Bond try and rescue at all? No, not really. So, why does she love Bond? Um…because. Does she have a defining moment in the film? Lying to cover Bond’s ass. Well, does she ever stand up to Sanchez and get revenge for his earlier beatings of her? If you don’t count the lying then…um..HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!
License To Kill is one of the most LACKLUSTER Bond films ever made. It is a shame that this would be Dalton’s final Bond. To go out on this note sullies all the great work he put in with the character. Sing along with Gladys…or even Patti…and if you watch it…and disagree…please tell me where the hell I’m wrong.