27/04/2012

BlogalongaBond: Licence to Kill (1989)

They say your favourite Bond film is the one you spent your youth watching and as nothing was ever going to rate higher in my estimation than Licence to Kill, that is obviously true. Before I understood - and was baffled by - the effect James Bond has had on generations of wide-eyed young men, I spent many a Saturday afternoon perched on the sofa next to my dad watching films my six-year old self had no business watching. Along with Die Hard and Terminator 2, Licence to Kill was valuable bonding time between father and daughter and since nostalgia is a powerful thing, this month was always going to be the highlight of BlogalongaBond.

Thankfully a few decades has not altered my view of Timothy Dalton's second and last outing as 007 because frankly, it's great. People went batshit crazy for Daniel Craig's dark and cold interpretation of the character but how that's any different to Dalton is news to me; Dalton pisses in the face of authority and bleeds disdain out of his eyeballs when some peon plonks a hand on his custom suit. Licence to Kill is a revenge thriller with scenes violent enough (for 1989) to lumber it with a 15 certificate and at no point does Dalton encapsulate anything other than a man on a mission to kill those responsible for the death of his friends.
Dalton never got the respect he deserved as Bond and as his last performance was overshadowed by a particularly awesome blockbuster season, neither did Licence to Kill. A disgrace considering there's so much good here: Robert Davi's polyester-shirted drug lord, the numerous action sequences and Pam Bouvier's transforming evening gown (below at the 2.00 mark, if you're interested) being just a few examples, but the real kicker comes thanks to "The Empress of Soul" and her sway-worthy theme song.


Gladys Knight officially broke up with her Pips in 1989 and although she was initially uncomfortable with the frequent use of the word 'kill', sense prevailed and this was chosen above Eric Clapton's effort. The previous two instalments reflected the New Romantic pop explosion of the early 80s but Licence to Kill brought back the booming voice of a respected diva, and the result doesn't only work as a standalone R&B/soul track before the genre was hi-jacked by pop stars a decade later, it also harks back to the early days of Bond with a subtle homage.

Allow 80s super-producer Narada Michael Warden to explain:


So there you have it: 27 years after Bond's first outing on the big screen audiences were finally treated to a film that not only delivered the action, girls and guns but also contained a Bond that actually resembled Ian Fleming's character. For my money Licence to Kill is the best Bond film with the best theme song and I don't care if you disagree. This is my blog.

Next Month: Goldeneye featuring Pierce Brosnan's luscious mane and Famke Janssen's killer thighs.