Another one that I watched in New York and which tends to get edited for TV airing (especially the decompression chamber scene), Licence to Kill is an unusual Bond outing that is a lot more like a generic action movie than the films before and after it.
For a movie hit by a writer’s strike, Maibaum’s last script works pretty well – it’s another densely plotted tale with a clearly rich background behind it. There are certainly some good ‘guest’ characters in it - particularly Truman-Lodge, while Q gets a lot of screen-time on his first field trip. After some initial rough patches and with a distracting hairstyle for much of the flick, Dalton turns in a strong gritty performance as Bond, who spends a considerable amount of time undercover and demonstrates that sometimes you don’t need to be subtle to infiltrate a place – dropping bets larger than most people on Earth in 2013 earn in a year at the casino. The action is mostly very good in a movie with planes, boats and trucks going on one side.
Weak points are many, however. The lead villain isn’t great, Carey Lowell doesn’t make her case (Law & Order pun intended) for being a great Bond girl and the less said about Talisa Soto the better – her career never really went anywhere after this. Moneypenny is really rather wet and doesn’t even the excuse that 007’s pulled her into a swimming pool. There’s also some fairly sharp jumps at the beginning of a movie that goes by quickly – and Michael Kamen’s score isn’t in the same league as those of John Barry.
Finally, I will note this is the first movie I ever saw that features a bullet-proof vest.
A distinctly middling Bond – it’s not A View To A Kill, but it’s hardly From Russia With Love. You can’t blame this one solely on the script.