James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – “Licence to Kill”

“Licence to Kill”

1989

Bond: Timothy Dalton

Classic, Cheese, or Crap?: Cheese

This one is easy. If your movie has Wayne Newton in it? It’s cheese.

When Felix Leiter is tortured (and his new wife killed) by drug mogul Franz Sanchez, Bond goes rogue and infiltrates Sanchez’s organization in order to exact revenge. MI6 disavows him, and takes away his license to kill.

Doesn’t stop him for a second.

“Licence to Kill” was the second outing for Timothy Dalton as Bond. It has the same overall sort of “serious Bond” tone – there’s no tongue in cheek here as with the Moore films – in fact, if anything, they go overboard with the “Dark Tone”. The villain whips his girlfriend. Leiter gets fed to a shark. A henchman’s head explodes. That’s some heavy stuff…

But the cheese is there, too. Hell, Robert Davi alone should qualify the flick as cheestastic. But wait, there’s more! The villain sports an iguana. Bond parachutes in to a wedding (not his). He gets into a bar brawl. Felix Leiter can’t pronounce “Sanchez” LOL. I find the presence of a young Benecio Del Toro to be cheesy, and of course, Wayne Newton, Mr. Las Vegas himself, has a prominent role.

Adding to the Cheese was Q’s longest outing ever. Even though Bond was rogue from MI6 at the time, Q shows up to give him gear anyways. He then sticks around and helps Bond out in the field! I’ve always suspected that Desmond Llewelyn’s extended appearance in this film was an attempt to appease Bond fans who were having trouble making the leap from Moore to Dalton (The Living Daylights was not very successful financially compared to its predecessors). So I’ve always felt as if they were basically saying, “we hear you, so… how about more Q?” :D

There are decent arguments to be made for all three classifications on this one I think, but I think I would be more prone to listen to points from the “Classic” camp than the “Crap” side of things.

To begin with, the stunt work and special effects in this film are incredible. Aside from multiple airborne stunts involving small engine aircraft, there’s a ski-less water skiing sequence and of course… the climactic “Tanker Chase”. I realize that there’s a certain amount of disagreement out there in Bond fandom as to this sequence (with the naysayers complaining its obnoxiously over the top), but I love it. I think its a great action sequence from back in the days when they still smashed real things up.

The crapsters will have their points as well, including the “dark tone”, two attractive, yet bland Bond Girls in Talisa Soto and Carey Lowell, and of course, Dalton – who I personally liked as Bond - but have to concede he’s not the series’ most popular actor by a longshot.

All said and done though, I get a lot of chuckles from various sources here, and I definitely enjoy watching it. In the upper half of Bond films for me.

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26 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – “Licence to Kill”

  1. I agree with you on all accounts. This film had great stunts and I like Dalton as Bond actually, but it still just has an air of cheese. I like The Living Daylights a bit more than this one.

    That being said, I would choose the Dalton films over Broznan’s any day.

  2. This Bond was a major change. Faster paced action, more contemporary hero less suave and tongue-in-cheek humor. No cheese or crap but something other than classic. Its going to be a long year till “Skyfall”

  3. “License To Kill” is a script that feels like it was made from focus groups notes rather than from anybody with a real vision for the franchise. It tries to be too much for too many people.

    I will grant that it’s a step up from the crap that was “Living Daylights”, but there’s too much bad here for me to say it’s a classic. I don’t think it’s really cheese, because it takes itself too seriously to allow the comedic moments to really work, and it’s not so bad that it makes it into the “so bad it’s still entertaining” group either. So that leaves crap.

    • I think its one of the few that I would entertain discussion from all sides on.

      On most others, either my own opinion is already dead-set, or I at least know its on the fence between two.

      Here, I feel its cheese, but I think solid arguments can be made across the board.

  4. I’m waay, waaay in the minority, but I liked Timothy Dalton as Bond. I liked the two films he did quite a lot. Granted, when I first watched them I was young, but they felt darker and edgier. As did Bond. I never bought into the cheese that was Roger Moore and the end of Sean Connery’s run, so really enjoyed this.

    I wouldn’t call it a classic, nor cheese or crap. Almost classic – how’s that?

    • That and Quantum of Solace.

      Oh well, I’ve got a gimmick. I gotta stick to it. :D

      I liked Dalton, too. Always felt he got a bad rap. Plus I was so happy to see Moore go, so I have fond memories of the first one. It was so great to get a new Bond.

      • I always felt like he got a bad rap. And imagine if we had had Pierce Brosnan instead of Dalton, had he not turned it down!

        I was so, so happy to see Moore go. I did not like him as a Bond at all. Maybe there was such a shift in tone between Moore and Dalton, people were immediately just aghast!

      • On the contrary, I distinctly remember there being a palpable sense of excitement from pretty much everyone that the Bond franchise was moving on from Moore and that it was going back to more of the serious Fleming-esque Bond was widely publicized. I know I was excited. “A View To A Kill” was just that horrible.

        Dalton probably does get a bad wrap. “The Living Daylights” would have been bad no matter who was Bond.

      • I’m going to have to look back on that thread when I get a chance and see if we disagreed.

        I like TLD quite a bit actually. Believe I called it Classic. I like this one too, but its got too much cheese not to call it as I see it….

      • That was the thread where I said Dalton “has the charisma of a speed bump”. :)

        I’ve actually watched (most of) these two since then, and I concur that I may have been a little harsh on him. But “Daylights” was horrible.

  5. Pingback: James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – “Licence to Kill” | Fogs … | James Bond

  6. Dalton is my favorite Bond and he was ahead of this time as its quite obvious that Daniel Craig plays the part the same way Dalton did but get a whole lot more credit for it.

    Licence to Kill is one of my favorite Bond films mostly because I like that its not your typical Bondfilm but more of a dark action thriller.

    I also really like Carey Lowell, I think she is one of few Bond girls that are really independent (disregard the pool scene in the end) and can take care of herself, hell she even saves Bond in the bar brawl!

    • That’s actually true Joel, on the Carey Lowell… As opposed to Halle Berry’s “Jinx”, who supposedly is Bond’s “equal” yet needs to get saved every other minute.

      I like Dalton too, and again… total agreement. “Ahead of his time”. Although Craig is probably more charismatic. And Craig had the benefit of being in Casino Royale, too, which was one of the best Bonds and an all time great flick IMO.

      I like this one a lot more than most, although I dont think I’d put it in with my “favorites”. I love the ending action sequence. I still think the tanker chase scene is incredible!

  7. I did think this bond was kind of cheesey. However there was one action sequence i thought ranked up there with some of the greateset action scenes in Bond Films. The scene that stands out is when he was under water being attacked by every one they cut his oxygen he was surrounded and then he shoots a dart gun to the plane that on the water that was getting ready to take off. Then he flies to the surface and begins water skiing behind the plane and then somehow swings around and jumps onto the plane and takes off way from all the danger. That scene seemed really cool in the movie.

    • Totally, Mike. I really dig the gasoline tanker chase at the end too. The tanker chase isn’t really all that “Bond” (like, the one you mention kind of feels more like a James Bond action scene than the tanker chase does, for example) but I still felt like it was a really cool action sequence.

      I mean, you just knew at any time, there was going to be an enormous explosion. LOL.

      Thanks for supporting the “Cheese” classification :D

  8. Timothy Dalton was great as 007, less so as “Bond, James Bond”. He was a smart and resourceful tough guy and looked like Bond ought to look. After Connery and before Craig, he would have been my favorite Bond. Craig moved up with Casino Royale, dropped a bit with Quantum of Solace and is hovering.

    License to Kill makes the best use of Felix Leiter in any of the films, and has a lot of the nasty stuff from the original Fleming Novels: “He disagreed with something that ate him”.

    Davi was a sleazy believable villain, unlike most of the Moore opponents. Benico Del Toro in the grinder was bloody good fun.

    Part 2 of the Bond Festival is up:

    http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2012/10/james-bond-007-celebration-episode-2.html

    • “Dalton was great as 007, less so as “Bond, James Bond”. ” Yeah thats a really good point. I like Dalton as Bond, and I like both of his movies, but he’s definitely in the dark Bond camp. I’d say the antithesis of that sentence was probably Pierce Brosnan, who was great as “Bond, James Bond”, and less so as 007. LOL :D

      As for ranking Craig all time, his legacy is yet to be writ. I have him as second, and hard to imagine he could rise to #1, but I suppose he could if the movies were awesome enough. He could also tumble, too, if we get a string of QoS’s buddy. :(

  9. Pingback: MOTM/LAMBcast #140: Licence to Kill | The Large Association of Movie Blogs

  10. Pingback: Man, I Love Films – MOTM/LAMBCAST #140: LICENCE TO KILL

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