Sunday, August 11, 2013

007 Project #19 Licence to Kill

Sloppy.  I think the word describes this movie perfectly and Dalton’s portrayal of James Bond as a whole.  There isn’t anything glaringly wrong with LtK, but there isn’t anything exceptional about it either.  The greatest departure from the classic Bond formula thus far, Licence to Kill pits Bond against his own government, and several other nations, as a rogue agent bent upon revenge.  I think that is where the film goes wrong and sadly that is where the film starts.

When Felix is nearly murdered by a crazed drug lord, Bond takes the law into his own hands and seeks to make him pay.  This is not Bond.  I can see where the character might be pushed to the edge, but I cannot see him going over it as strongly and guns-ablazing as he does here, particularly when it turns out Felix has not been killed.

The remainder of the film is Bond, out of his mind and out of character, relentlessly pursuing the drug lord irrespective of whom he has to hurt or how many international laws he has to break.  While it might be fun to put Bond on the run as a rogue agent, the character is too smart to take that tact to the extent that Licence to Kill does.   

It also doesn’t make much sense.  There is a bigger story at work in this movie, and Bond has several opportunities to hitch his vendetta wagon to it, but he is so blinded by his fury that he not only fails to take those opportunities, but he actively works against other characters in the film who want to help him.  This is a man whose wife was brutally murdered Corleone-style on his wedding day.  A man who waited 5 movies to get his revenge upon her killer.  Am I supposed to believe that this same man now flies off the handle at the apparent and then near death of his friend?  I have no doubt there is a body of fan fiction that will support a much closer relationship between Bond and Felix than I am aware of, but with what I’m given in the history of this character, this does not wash.

And while I have a pretty big qualm with the premise the film, the remainder does little to salvage it.  Bond is sloppy and the plot goes all over the place with him.  The story seems to have trouble focusing and wanders all over the place.  Characters are introduced and dropped, others shift importance and function, until finally the whole thing pulls together at the end like a high school play.  I could do three pages on the unnecessary and bizarre Wayne Newton cult sub-plot, but at this point I think my point is clear enough to avoid the redundancy.

While The Living Daylights was able to carry Dalton and make up for some of his deficiencies, Licence to Kill is too scattered to give him much help this time around.  Dalton’s Bond is sloppy.  From his hair and general appearance, to his goofy smiles and strangely awkward demeanor, he is in no way the suave or clever character crafted by his predecessors.  I don’t know that it is entirely his fault, but he just comes across as a generic 80’s action hero.  Very little in this film or the previous one is distinctly Bond.  The good news, like Lazenby, Dalton’s tenure is short and will likely be forgotten.

Pam Bouvier may be the consummate 80’s Bond girl.  She is thin, pale, fiercely independent, and sports a pixie cut that works.  She looks too young to be CIA and yet has enough spunk to pull it off when the story lets her.  Carey Lowell does a solid job in the role and at times is more engaging than an often wooden Dalton.

On the flip side, Franz Sanchez is one of the worst Bond villains to date.  He’s not even a good 80’s crime movie villain.  This guy is supposed to run one of the most brilliant and brutal drug syndicates in the world.  He is meant to be feared and respected.  And yet he is captured by Felix and Bond almost by accident whilst trying to reclaim his girlfriend from a rival paramour.  Sloppy.  He is also easily manipulated by Bond, who infiltrates Sanchez’s organization without any more effort than showing up at the front door.  This guy is no mastermind and Roger Moore or Sean Connery’s Bond would have made short work of him like a second class henchman.  The best I can say is that this villain lives at the level of the film he inhabits.

Licence to Kill is a low point in the franchise and I can see why it kicks off the longest dry spell in the timeline of the series.  The entire film is sloppy and never recovers from its poorly executed premise.
I kept hoping the iguana would shoot lasers or poison or something.  Anything

Aimee here:

This is really just a bad 80s action movie. "Bad" is relative, since we've obviously seen a lot worse, but this movie veers away rather quickly from the formulae that make Bond... well, Bond.

The story, as Stan so meticulously points out, makes little sense. I like seeing some slight character development. Having Bond care about and work to avenge his friend Felix (who is NOT killed, it turns out) is nice, and it could serve as an anchor to an off-kilter vengeance-seeking Bond. However, it does not. Bond doesn't go this crazy when his own wife is murdered--why would he take it so hard when Felix's wife is? I suppose it could be salt in an old wound, but still, Felix doesn't even take it this hard. He's all smiles by the end of the film.

I wasn't really enamored of Pam Bouvier. I found her role in the film to be boring and predictable--but after so many earlier films, all finding ways to shoe-horn a desirable young woman into an international espionage plot, I suppose that's both understandable and unfortunate.

The main villain is goofy and ridiculously stupid. He trades all his credit and reputation in the underworld because he is insanely jealous. How did he even get this far? The tele-church plot with Wayne Newton was laughable at best and poorly elaborated upon at worst; the whole thing leaves me feeling as though I have wasted my time. Bond works best when he's a real company man--in all our movie viewings, "Bond goes rogue" has been a weak plot across the board.

At the end of it all, I'm not sorry to see Dalton go--he had the look but was ultimately forgettable. The "darker" portrayal he meant to bring to the table simply doesn't work; possibly as a function of bad plots and meandering action sequences.  

No comments:

Post a Comment