(For Part 1 of this series, click here)
(For Part 2 of this series, click here)
You would think watching at least one James Bond movie every day for weeks would get old, but I can tell you from personal experience that it does not. The last few weeks of my life were spent plowing through all twenty-three 007 movies in the Eon Productions canon, and I had an absolute blast. From Goldfinger to Jaws, from XXX to Tracy Bond, I rebonded with every character, and like any obsessive, I immediately sat down and ranked every single one.
After a few dozen tweaks, I wrote paragraphs for each entry, and this week, I’ve been presenting my choices a handful of films at a time. On Tuesday, I unleashed 23-16. Yesterday, I presented 15-11, and without further ado, here is 10-6…
10) 1989’s License To Kill
If The Living Daylights was an intentional hop toward realism, License To Kill is an execution-style hit to the temple of the entire Roger Moore era. Not only do drug dealers feed Felix Leiter’s leg to a shark and attach a note to his body saying “He disagreed with something that ate him”, they rape and murder his lovely wife Della for good measure. When Bond vows to seek revenge against the monsters who did it, M fires his ass and tries to take away his gun.
It’s hands down the most intense and disturbing plot to be found anywhere in the Bond canon, and looking back, it’s not really a surprise this ended the Timothy Dalton era. People typically like their Bond flicks to offer a few more smiles and at least the occasional bout of whismy. License To Kill has neither of those things, but even if it is unbalanced, it’s still strangely good.
There’s something refreshing about how straightforward everything is about this movie. When Bencio del Toro’s henchman Dario spots Bond in disguise after they had a run-in weeks earlier, he immediately takes out his gun and deals with it. When one of the DEA agents betrays his buddies, it’s about nothing more than money. There aren’t many wrinkles, but there is a sweet manta ray disguise and a well-executed intro that features a plane being tied upside down.
I’m not sure Bond could have survived a third time around the track with Dalton, but his second trip is riveting.