Licence to Kill (1989) (PG-13)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"Licence to Kill" is not about some mindless war criminal who wants to blow up the world or get them all dependent on heroin to get a monopoly on drug trafficking. There is no real silliness to this flick. Instead, this movie builds on characters that we already know and our emotional attachment to them, much like what "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" did.
For those who don't know, Felix Leiter is a CIA agent who's appeared in several Bond movies, usually just at the right time to get 007 out of a jam. I don't think that an actor has yet to play him twice, but I could be wrong about that (I'm excluding Jeffrey Wright's reprisal role in the Daniel Craig films...I haven't gotten to those yet).
The movie opens as Bond is consoling a very nervous Felix Leiter who's on his way to his wedding. Bond is the best man and he keeps reminding Felix that yes, he does have the wedding ring and yes, everything will go according to plan...which it doesn't.
Coincidence or fate, a drug lord lands on an island near the ceremony. The Coast Guard sees him land and goes to fetch Leiter so they can grab the drug lord, Franz Sanchez, before he slips back into Cuban airspace.
What ensues seems like the non-related pre-story that fills up time before the main titles, reintroducing the characters and setting up the major themes. Up to this point, the Bond movies have followed a preexisting mold; but here it is broken.
After the wedding, Bond has to force Leiter to put his work behind him, entertain his guests, and enjoy his honeymoon.
But we haven't heard the last of Sanchez, a man who is not to be trifled with. Bribery, extortion, whatever you call it—the most insidious ways of intimidation, he's got nailed down. Sanchez escapes during transportation and he's going back to teach Leiter a lesson for capturing him.
Bond is just about to head overseas again on another mission when he hears of Sanchez's escape. He rushes back to Felix's house to find that his wedding night was ruined.
Hellbent on revenge, more angry than we've ever seen Bond before, he starts taking matter into his own hands to try to find why and who tortured Felix. The plot goes much deeper than just Sanchez as Bond quickly finds out.
Sanchez is a brutal man just as "Licence to Kill" is perhaps the most brutal Bond film yet. It's bloody and there's swearing in it (something that was avoided in the Roger Moore era, alluded to by cheap lines). Like its predecessor "The Living Daylights", it throws caution to the wind and plows headfirst into severity. This is very interesting because the director, John Glen, has remained since "For Your Eyes Only". We've seen the series have many ups and downs all at the mercy of John Glen. "A View to a Kill" wasn't that great; but with Timothy Dalton as 007, Glen manages to bring thrilling and frightening scenes to the screen. It's such as shame that this is both Glen and Dalton's last appearance in the Bond franchise.
Even more than "The Living Daylights", there is peril and loss of life in "Licence to Kill" that surpasses even "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and its morbid ending.
Not happy with Bond's sudden vigilante style of agent-ing, M revokes 007's licence to kill (hence the title) and demands that he turn in his weapon. But Bond is not about to sit quietly and let this one get swept under the rug.
Escaping even his own MI6, Bond gets to a place that he's never truly been in the past—alone. Naturally, he's not by himself, ostracized by the CIA and MI6 for too long. He meets an agent who was working with Leiter, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). This woman is not to be trifled with, she's no-nonsense and she loves a good fist fight. Still predictable and overly emotional, it is somewhat nice to see the writers trying harder to make the women stronger in this series.
Bond must avenge his friend and discover why Sanchez is unpredictably evil. 
The action sequences, as with most of this franchise, are pretty spectacular. The stunts never fail to be jaw-dropping. Who doesn't like a good explosion?
Smarter than even the last film, "Licence to Kill" has layers of plot twists that make this Bond movie very enjoyable and very thrilling.

Score: ★★★½

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