Bond in Review: License to Kill

Allen L. Linton II
9 min readMar 28, 2020

I really like the James Bond franchise. This is part seventeen of a behind schedule, bimonthly, 24-part series of me watching James Bond movies and providing a stream of consciousness style commentary for a given film. I will also rank the movies so stay tuned for that at the bottom of the piece. License to Kill is Dalton’s final turn as Bond and it gets dark. While the movie has all the staples of the 80s — drugs, Uzis, ninjas, bar fights — it also represents the most serious, joyless romp in the franchise. Best suited for 2005, 1980s moviegoers strongly disliked this movie. It’s my least watched Bond movie, probably, because it is not fun. This is also the first movie to not use a Fleming title though sections of the story harken back to “The Hildebrand Rarity” short story. License to Kill was released in 1989; it is my Bond birth movie. Originally, the title was License Revoked but was changed after it tested poorly with American audiences.

· Oh, listen to that brass that starts before the Bond theme. That’s a change and not a welcomed one.

· The voiceover for the opening scene is so bad. “If they hurry, they just might grab the bastard” in the calmest voice ever.

· Work over everything for Felix Leiter.

· So we meet Sanchez who is the primary villain this movie. Odd to clearly meet him so quickly but we should also discuss the canopy removal serving as a light switch of some kind

· Spanish guitar — YES PLEASE!

· Can’t be understated how sinister Sanchez is right here. His goons are going to actually remove that guy’s heart from his chest.


· He is whipping Lupe for her deceit. Not good. But if you look closely, you see that he is doing it with a lizard’s tail.

· And, wow, Della’s father seems to be decidedly against this wedding. What did Felix do to irritate him so?

· Sanchez put himself in all this risk to just get Lupe back? Oy.

· Bond with the classic one shot to the engine to disable the car trick.

· Can we discuss how Sanchez almost scraped the ground with that take off? Dicey!

· Bond caught a plane from a helicopter that happened to be close enough to the wedding. Helluva stunt.

· Della can see Felix from all the way up in the sky? Her vision must be terrible up close.

· Small detail that’s cool: James and Felix have their parachutes dragging behind them and treated like dresses with trains.

· “License to Kill” — Gladys Knight

· This is the last movie for Maurice Binder and his title design. It’s actually the final movie for Director John Glen, Robert Brown, and Caroline Bliss.

· You can clearly hear the Goldfinger influence in this song with those horns.

· 2 million dollar bribes and acting within acting. Smart.


· Felix — working on his wedding day again. Relationship won’t last.

· Wow, someone is a Dallas Cowboys and LA Dodgers fan. And the Chicago Cubs. And Cincinnati Reds. Felix Leiter is a baseball fan!

· David Hedison’s voice is so entertaining. “Lures”

· Wait, what was the question asking if he was really Columbian?

· So, Ed Killifer left Sanchez to drive back to tell Felix everything was alright to then drive back to load Sanchez away? Makes no sense — probably organized the escape plan in this time but it should’ve set off alarm bells

· Dr. No reference here in the song “Jump Up” being played at the wedding party

· That kiss was at least on the cheek from Della. And what a strong lighter

· This breakout was really satisfying

· RIP Teresa Bond.

· Sanchez is all about loyalty. Its an admirable trait. Especially since he is just a high end narcotics trafficker. No greater masterplan

· “honeyMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON” is a dark line.

· There is something unsettling about learning who betrayed him before his impending feeding time.

· Small detail but I like that Bond always has the safety catch on and turned it off when it was time to kill

· “He disagreed with something that ate him.” Punny.

· Didn’t expect Felix to be alive, did you?!

· A personal joy: seeing Bond called “Commander.”

· Universal Exports and a little marine biology go a long way.

· You don’t get many jump scares in Bond movies and the Jaws-type situation caught me by surprise

· Superspy James Bond being caught by a standard guard is disappointing

· Second guard is remarkably accurate if he can shoot a gun away from a catwalk.

· Electrocuted by eels. So silly.

· Glad we can drop this verbal tick…old buddy.

· Angry Dalton is really really good.

· Hemingway House, with cats, explains some of the literary references you get in this scene. “Farewell to arms”

· M!!! Outside of London. You know he is in a foul mood. Also, what is happening in Istanbul?

· For as dark as Bond is during this movie, M is a bit colder/darker with the “he knew the risks” get over it tone

· Maybe the most important scene in modern Bond history: FIRST TIME HE IS GOING ROGUE! (something he will do most of the next 7 movies)

· M suggested his guard shouldn’t shoot because there were too many people. Optics. That’s how you get to that level.

· Milton Krest doing his best demonstration on how not to talk to people

· Manta ray! (but no one saw the air bubbles?)

· So, Bond just straight up messed a guy up there. You’d have to believe his story but it would also be farfetched.

· Spanish guitar Bond theme. SIGN ME UP!

· How is it suddenly the middle of the day so quickly?

· Rage Bond not caring about stealth with a spear to the abdomen.

· Anthony Zerbe as Milton Krest has the right hair for a semi-drunk henchman. Sweaty, disheveled, and upended.

· That’s a ton of cocaine in the water.

· Dalton with the rare very good underwater Bond scene.

· This seaplane stunt is phenomenal.

· Not the first-time cash has saved Bond in close quarters combat (Octopussy)

· Golden disk…but not the Goldeneye.

· James Bond drinking a Budweiser with lime is awful.

· Pam Bouvier. Keep that in mind.

· We’ve got a barfight and a dancer who has opted to keep dancing throughout the mess

· So, Bond just raided a stash of cash and is haggling about the price into Isthmus City? C’mon

· Rage Bond soothed by a CIA contract pilot. Noted.

· Moneypenny has the ability to authorize whereabouts on double-O agents? Not a good security system.

· Pam Kennedy. Get it. Bouvier à Kennedy. Like Jackie Kennedy.

· Isthmus City is not a real place. No place wanted to be associated with this type of crime and nastiness.

· Truman Lodge representing the necessary but overly uptight arse of the movie.

· Bond double take.

· Professor Joe Butcher played by Wayne Newton. Bless your heart.

· And there is the iguana that could be used as a weapon.

· Very crafty drug game. Using a television fundraiser to set the price of cocaine by the kilo and having people call in to make buys under the cover of supporting research. It is brilliant.

· Bond playing like a real jerkoff. Hilarious.

· Chicago! Out by Lake Shore Drive.

· The piano music playing in the background is so dramatic and distracting to this scene. It’s all here to just play up the jealousy of Ms. Kennedy.

· Bond and Lupe were awfully involved on the floor of the casino. No one saw that on camera because I’d have major questions for him

· Problem eliminator. Hilarious.

· Nice subtle shot at Sanchez’s men.

· Bond with the reconnaissance and scouting out how to murder Sanchez. Excellent.

· Bond’s uncle immediately sends alarm bells up. No way I thought it was Q because MI6 is barely in the movie at all. This is good misdirection.

· Plastic explosive in a toothpaste tube is fantastic.

· Q’s programming of the signature gun is just him punching a basic calculator a bunch of times.

· More piano for Kennedy sadness.

· The next 10 minutes of this movie is outstanding. Bond swiftly blends into a staff role to get to the top of the casino and is doing some serious spy work. Sanchez is also giving a pretty great speech. He responds reasonably to a credible question. A surprise appearance by Kennedy. And there looks to be an assassination attempt.

· Dalton’s Bond is exceptional when he enters cold killer mode. Feels very true to form.

· Ninjas. Suddenly there are bloody ninjas and a net.

· This is and was always a drug movie. Hong Kong narcotics was making moves and Bond’s rogue status throwing off other plans. Another repeated theme for future years.

· What’s up with the faces in this room!?!?!

· Bond using truth to establish credentials while sowing doubt internally. It’s Inception but in real life.

· Lupe falling for Bond feels kind of quick.

· Angry Bond is out of control but really well done in the subsequent destruction he is causing while on his vendetta.

· Setting up Milton Krest to this extent is such a payoff because he is a slimy guy.

· Oh, this is the last part of the 1980s experience: gruesome deaths in the silliest ways.

· Money laundering joke. Sanchez — forever the joker.

· Bond’s third attempt to work alone appears to work. Steadfast he is.

· As strong as the villain work and Bond acting is, the superficial female lead work is awful writing.

· Q’s eyeroll is of the time but I eyeroll because they could do much more than stoke a jealousy between these Kennedy and Lupe

· Kennedy dropping a “bullshit” was fantastic.

· Q is a pretty solid field operator. Just throwing the equipment aside is very, well, Bond.

· Stinger missiles. Classic.

· Watching these men put on masks was why I opted to restart these recaps during this COVID-19 quarantine.

· Cocaine dissolves in gasoline, transported in gas, then reproduced. That’s brilliant.

· Wichita Falls in the house!!

· Soundproof chamber for the meditative sessions. Bless your heart.

· Weasel Truman Lodge has the loyalty that Sanchez appreciates which is why not honoring the deal appears to be a problem for him.

· The spiritual appearance and music cue when Kennedy arrives is a bit on the nose

· Bond with a “dead end” pun — Roger Moore salutes you

· Sanchez with the calmest “you…come with me” to Lodge. It is menacing in its nature.

· This movie discusses surprises often. I hate surprises.

· You can absolutely hear the Bond theme being “played” by the bullets hitting the tanker that Bond is on at the beginning of the climax.

· “Don’t worry, it’s only money.”

· They tilted a truck on its side. Out of this world. Bond is not leaning the right way in the close up but that doesn’t matter too much.

· Not entirely clear why the trucks burst into a ball of fire.

· Financial advisor stress is through the roof! But his medical costs are quite low after being shot repeatedly.

· Driving through a fire mess is nuts too.

· People being drenched with gasoline is terrible after that wreck.

· Great lighter payoff by the end.

· Felix lives and is up for fishing. Drugs are a great thing.

· The Lupe/Bond/Kennedy love triangle is so so so bad.

· Don’t wink at me fish!!!

So we leave the Dalton era behind in fire and fury and an Isthmus City party. Dalton’s Bonds honored the books and leaned into the darkness. I like that and License to Kill is much better than I remembered. Shame that folks don’t revisit it as much during marathons. I’ve updated my movie rankings below:

1) From Russia With Love

2) Goldfinger


4) The Living Daylights

5) The Spy Who Loved Me

6) Live and Let Die

7) License to Kill

8) Dr. No

9) Octopussy

10) The Man with the Golden Gun

11) A View to a Kill

12) Moonraker

13) For Your Eyes Only

14) YOLT

15) Diamonds Are Forever

16) Thunderball

17) Never Say Never Again



Allen L. Linton II

Free writing about politics, sports, intersection between the two, and Chicago.