Timothy Dalton was not a good James Bond. Licence to Kill was not a good James Bond movie. Put the two together and you get one of the weakest 007 films in the franchise. The generic theme song (Michael Kamen) should suffice as fair warning about this one. Dalton’s thankfully short-lived presence as the greatest action movie character hero also included another banal movie, The Living Daylights.
Some fans of the Ian Fleming thrillers feel Timothy Dalton’s Bond is the closest to the books’. Following Roger Moore’s more lighthearted incarnation any gloomier take would automatically be more obvious, but this Bond seems permanently pissed-off. Licence to Kill also features not a single good one-liner or pithy comment from the secret agent, or anybody else for that matter.
Licence to Kill’s greatest weakness is it is just another action movie about a vicious drug lord. You could replace Bond with any other action hero and get the same movie. The movie also lacks a really good female lead, something central to a good Bond movie. Cary Lowell, who looks nothing like she did in Law & Order, plays Pam Bouvier, the closest the movie comes to an interesting woman.
David Hedison as CIA agent Felix Leiter is clearly out of his depth even if he is most famous for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Strangely enough, Felix Leiter will later on recover the arm and leg he loses in this Bond movie and once you go Black …
All the other secondary characters, including Benicio del Toro’s villain, are standard issue stuff. There’s also the issue of what happened to Sharky: Bond shoots a villain saying “This is for Sharky” but the “this” is unclear.
There are a few good moments in Licence to Kill. The barroom fight is decent enough but it stands out for having a great if much too short swordfish fight and Lowell has a nice take on “Shaken, not stirred.” Still, this is not enough to make this 007 movie really worthwhile.