Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Timothy Dalton as JAMES BOND
    Carey Lowell as PAM BOUVIER
    Robert Davi as FRANZ SANCHEZ
    Talisa Soto as LUPE LAMORA
    Anthony Zerbe as MILTON KREST
    Frank McRae as SHARKEY
    David Hedison as FELIX LEITER
    Benicio Del Toro as DARIO

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: United Artists

    Directed by: John Glen

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Timothy Dalton returns to the Bond franchise with “Licence to Kill,” a darker take on the British superspy. After his best friend, CIA operative Felix Leiter (David Hedison) is attacked, Bond ignores orders and goes rogue. He seeks revenge on the ruthless drug dealer Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), the man behind the attack on Leiter. Using his knowledge and skills, Bond infiltrates Sanchez’s organization and causes problems on the inside.

Like many people, “Licence to Kill” was one of my least favorite Bond movies. However, given twenty years and two more Bonds in the series, I have found some love for this second installment with Timothy Dalton as Bond.

“Licence to Kill” gave us a grittier and more ruthless Bond. Dalton can definitely play dark, but he lacks the charisma of Connery, who was pretty dark in the earlier films but managed to be completely likeable. Still, looking at this movie from a historical perspective, it is still pretty good. It is Bond, after all. The formula still works.

Even though I have been a Bond fan from elementary school, I was never a huge fan of “Licence to Kill.” Neither were the audiences in 1989, apparently. This film did threaten to kill off the franchise before Pierce Brosnan revived the character in 1995 with “Goldeneye.”

When I saw “Licence to Kill” in 1989, I was unimpressed. I had liked Timothy Dalton as James Bond in his first outing, “The Living Daylights.” However, the darker turn of the series left a bad taste in my mouth. So much about this film sloughed off the Bond elements I held so dear... the gadgets, the larger-than-life villain and the freaky henchmen.

I never liked the mutilation of Felix Leiter. Similarly, I also didn’t like the psychotic but otherwise normal villain, even though Robert Davi did a decent job. And with Bond going rogue, which we have seen several times since this movie, it was just a bit jarring from what I had expected in the 007 films of the 80s.

While “Licence to Kill” did okay overseas and has found an audience on home video, it never quite fit into the string of films. Perhaps if it were made before Roger Moore camped up the series in the 70s and 80s, it might have worked, but I always expected more. Now that Bond has been successfully rebooted with Daniel Craig as the British superspy, this flavor of film is a bit more palatable.

Like the other Bond releases on Blu-ray, it is always great to watch these movies in a hi-def format. By the time the series reached the 1980s, the image quality can be pushed to a brilliant look on home video, without the grain that we see in some of the 60s and early 70s releases. If you’re going to buy Bond, you ought to be buying him on Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray disc includes two audio commentaries. One features director John Glen with members of the cast and crew while the other features writer Michael G. Wilson and members of the crew. Additional standard features include original theatrical trailers, a slate of deleted scenes with introduction by Glen, two music videos (“Licence to Kill” by Gladys Knight and “If You Asked Me To” by Patti LaBelle) and an image database, all accessible by a slick pop-up menu.

Featurettes include “On the Set with John Glen,” “On Location with Peter Lamont,” “Ground Check with Corky Fornoff” featuring a look at the aerial stunts, the vintage “Bond ‘89” behind-the-scenes video, another vintage behind-the-scenes production featurette and a look at the Kenworth Trucks used in the film.

The Blu-ray format offers an interactive database, which breaks out the different elements of the film, from the opening titles to the bad guys to the Bond girls. There is also a very interesting original documentary “Inside Licence to Kill” which follows the film’s production and even gives some creepy details about the supposedly haunted stretch of Mexican desert where much of the film’s climax was shot.

Bond fans, especially those who liked Timothy Dalton.

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