Thursday, 12 November 2015

007 - Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill has a great hook. What would happen if someone pissed James Bond off? How do we organically track 007 to the point were he's standing in-front of M, surrounded by MI6 goons, ready to hurl a kick at his superior's midriff? For the answer, resident screenwriters Michael G Wilson and Richard Maibaum dip into Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming's violent, guttural novel about consumption, dredging up an image of a chewed up friend.

Egged on by the success of Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, Licence incorporates horror certificate gore to make its point. Thanks to Robert Davi's drug dealing supervillain Sanchez, an incompetent middle-man is obliterated in a pressure chamber and Bond's best pal Felix Leiter has his leg bitten off by a shark. We're sold stakes. Licence proposes a story run on this kind of damage, then quickly gets cold feet. The film moves with an isolated, vengeful Bond for the sum total of one act before piling on accomplices and diluting the hate with the kind of nonsensical gadgetry that the comparatively grounded The Living Daylights had largely avoided.

Vengeance implies a single-minded cause and effect, Sanchez hurts Bond so Bond hurts Sanchez. Mauling Felix, not to mention having his cheery wife gangraped to death, as an inciting incident on yet another tale in which 007 slowly picks at a villain's social circle feels like a waste. Timothy Dalton is more than capable of taking us to the dark, sullen corners of James Bond the character. This is the first film in the series since On Her Majesty's Secret Service to give 007 a reason to sit in the dark and drink, yet it doesn't. Unfortunately, the people financially and creatively backing Dalton are far more interested in delivering James Bond the easily digestible action product.

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