Geez. I didn’t realize that the word “Licence” had so many spellings until putting this review together. According to the built-in spell-checker in OS X, the folks over at MGM/UA had it all wrong when they titled their 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill. Apparently, Steve Jobs feels it should rather be spelled LICENSE to Kill.
This movie kicks my ass. Timothy Dalton kicks my ass. What was the public thinking back in the 80s, not turning out in droves to support the man in his second outing as super not-so-secret British agent James Bond? How were we not pining for him to return in a third film? How did we end up going from a balls-to-the-wall (minus the Wayne Newton factor) revenge thriller to the more anaemic Brosnan outings? Urgh…Thank M for the coming of the current Daniel Craig era.
Craig and Dalton have a couple of things in common: they both play Bond like a bad-ass. And that really works for the series. In fact, it’s the factor that people find most attractive about the latest films. You feel like no one in their right mind would mess with Craig. And I can safely say the same for Dalton. Dalton looks perpetually on-edge, even when smiling. Like he’s ready to snap your neck at the drop of a hat. Hell, I’d be afraid to even shake the man’s hand! If he has a failing in the performance of the character at all, it’s that he is perhaps the least charming of all the Bonds. He always seems less keen on a magical night under the covers and more interested in feeding crooked DEA agents to sharks, pulping henchman to a fine dust or setting drug czars on fire. But honestly, as a Bond fan, I’m more interested in his bad-assery than his romantic encounters. And this film delivers in spades.
Bond is out for revenge. His best pal, American CIA agent Felix Leiter is fed to the sharks and left for dead on his wedding day. Following the trail of the drug czar responsible, 007 kicks so many asses on US soil that MI6 yanks his licence to kill. Yeah…like Bond needs a licence. He enlists the help of gadget guru, Q, a hot CIA pilot (Carey Lowell from Law & Order!) and the girlfriend of the man he’s hunting (Talisa Soto – married to Benjamin Bratt from Law & Order!) to satisfy his thirst for dead bad guys! Exciting? You betchca!
And Dalton’s bad-assery has never looked better than on this Blu-ray disc. Licence to Kill comes to high-def in a nice, if far from perfect 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. I have the old DVD set that includes this film and I can safely recommend this new Blu-ray edition as an upgrade. You’re just not going to see as great a leap in quality as you did in previous Blu-ray Bonds (Dr. No left me breathless!) but if you don’t own a copy of Licence yet, this is an easy buy. You kind of need to own this, in fact, if you’re any sort of Bond fan.
The bonus features are all ported over from the DVD set. Nothing new here, as far as I can tell. The studio has, however re-constituted the old ‘making-of’ docs for all the Bond discs into hybrid SD/HD pieces. All interview footage remains SD (as it was shot) but all film stills and movie cuts have been upgraded to HD and look fantastic. Here’s a list of extras:
• DECLASSIFIED: MI6 VAULT Deleted Scenes With Director John Glen Introductions
• Audio Commentary featuring director John Glen and cast members
• Commentary featuring producer Michael W. Wilson and crew members
• On the Set with John Glen Featurette
• On Location with Peter Lamont
• Ground Check with Corky Fornoff Featurette
• Bond ’89
• 007 MISSION CONTROL Interactive Guide Into the World of Licence to Kill
• Inside Licence to Kill
• Production Featurette “Behind the Scenes”
• Kenworth Trucks Featurette
• Gladys Knight “Licence to Kill” Music Video
• Patti LaBelle “If You Asked Me To” Music Video
• Original Trailers & Photo Gallery
• Image Database