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Licence to Kill (1989)

Licence to Kill, the 16th chapter in the 27th year of the Bond series, may also be the dumbest, but who cares? The formula still works and there are plenty of toys, tootsies and stunts.

This time 007 battles Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) – a sadistic South American drug czar with bad skin and an even uglier personality who feeds his enemies to man-eating sharks for kicks. Bond enlists the aid of two new tomatoes in a plot so complicated it’s unlikely any of them know what they’re doing.

The problem with this 007 is that he takes himself too seriously.

Bond is no more believable than Batman. Sean Connery and Roger Moore understood that and let us in on the joke.

Timothy Dalton, in his second outing as 007, has no humour. He’s cool, suave, and well-groomed – but he’s like an advertisement for tuxedos posed by a model whose boxer shorts are too tight.

Bond attempts to resign from the SIS, but M refuses to accept his resignation and withdraws Bond’s licence to kill.

Bond escapes and manages to disrupt Sanchez’s drug-smuggling operation after discovering that Sanchez (pictured above) is smuggling drugs into America through the marine company run by Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe).

Bond teams up with a CIA contract pilot, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), whose name he discovered in Felix Leiter’s files – and together they travel to Sanchez’s dominion in Isthmus City, the capital city of a South American country not a million miles away from Mexico.

Bond establishes himself as a rich assassin looking for a job and makes contact with Sanchez.

Discovering that Sanchez hides himself away behind two inches of armoured glass, Bond arranges plastic explosive around the rim of the window of Sanchez’s office and attempts to kill the drug czar by detonating the explosive to shatter the window and firing at him from across the street.

The attempt fails and the SIS operative in Isthmus City, who says that Bond has come close to disrupting a joint SIS and Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau operation, takes Bond captive.

In fact, Bond has disrupted it, because Sanchez’s forces suddenly attack the SIS safe house and rescue Bond.

Taken into Sanchez’s confidence, Bond discovers that Sanchez has obtained four surface-to-air missiles from the Contra rebels and is threatening to shoot down an American airliner if the DEA keep pursuing him.

Bond travels with Sanchez to his drug-refining plant -cunningly hidden in a religious retreat, which also provides the TV evangelist programming, which secretly auctions off the drugs – but Bond is identified by one of Sanchez’s henchmen.

Bond manages to set fire to the plant, destroying it, but Sanchez escapes with twenty tons of cocaine, $500 million and the four Stinger missiles. Bond gives chase and systematically destroys each of the oil tankers carrying Sanchez’s drugs.

Sanchez and Bond end up in hand-to-hand combat. Sanchez loses.

For toys, you get exploding toothpaste. For sex, you get sly smiles and a pat on the rear. Is 007 getting soft? Is the series suffering from varicose veins?

Fortunately for die-hard 007 fans, the action never stops long enough for you to worry about it.


James Bond
Timothy Dalton
Pam Bouvier
Carey Lowell
Franz Sanchez
Robert Davi
Lupe Lamora
Talisa Soto
Milton Krest
Anthony Zerbe
Frank McRae
Ed Killifer
Everett McGill
Professor Joe Butcher
Wayne Newton
Benicio Del Toro
Desmond Llewellyn
Felix Leiter
David Hedison
Robert Brown
Miss Moneypenny

Caroline Bliss

John Glen