Bond-ed for Life ~ Licence to Kill

The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.

The Facts:

Synopsis: James Bond leaves Her Majesty’s Secret Service to stop an evil drug lord and avenge his best friend, Felix Leiter.

Stars: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi, Carey Lowell, Talisa Soto, Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Zerbe, David Hedison

Director: John Glen

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 133 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review:  Though The Living Daylights introduced us to a strong new James Bond, it was a fairly generic entry in the long-running franchise.  Coming in as a second choice, Dalton was working with a script that was intended for Pierce Brosnan so did the best he could.  When it was time to re-up for another Bond, Dalton was met with a script that dug deeper into the personal affairs of 007 and provided the actor material that pushed the character further than ever before.

The first Bond film to be rated PG-13, Licence to Kill earns the rating with gritty violence that hadn’t been seen before in the franchise.  Finding Bond on a mission of vengeance against the drug kingpin that brought death and destruction to a colleague, the movie has a different look and feel than the previous entries in the series.  As the times have changed, so have the tastes of the audiences and the producers have wisely fashioned Licence To Kill around interesting character development and some of the best action sequences of the series.

Along with the strong work from Dalton, Davi is one of the baddest of bad men that Bond has encountered.  Quietly evil, Davi never loses control over the situation which makes his character subtly menacing even though he appears benign.  Among his henchman is a young Del Toro and the future Oscar winner should give you the creeps in his unhinged performance.

However, it’s the Bond girls that once again come up short.  Soto has to do double work as Davi’s abused girlfriend and a secret confidant to Bond…she balances it nicely until she falls into the same trap many of these ladies have.  Once she sleeps with Bond it’s like a switch is flipped and she loses all sense of confidence and independence.  When she tearfully (and not very convincingly) confesses “I love James SO much” it seems to come from a love struck teenager rather than an otherwise fiery female.

Lowell fares worse in a part that’s both underwritten and underperformed.  Again, though she starts out as taking no crap from 007, she inexplicably falls into bed with him and then latches on like a weepy schoolgirl.  I know these roles are designed to fall on the stereotypical side, but it does get a bit exhausting with the umpteenth iteration of the same romantic plot point.

There are some really impressive stunts captured in the film, most notably an extended chase sequence that takes 007 from an underwater battle to a tense fight in midair.  Gladys Knight lends her strong vocals to one of the less memorable title tunes set to another so-so credit sequence designed by Maurice Binder.

I’m not sure if director Glen knew this was to be his last Bond film but he really ups the ante here with a film that has a wonderful pace and some fine performances.  Though it ended up being the lowest grossing Bond film, Licence to Kill should be considered one of the better overall adventures.

Bond-ed for Life ~ The Living Daylights

The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.

The Facts:

Synopsis: James Bond is living on the edge to stop an evil arms dealer from starting another world war. Bond crosses all seven continents in order to stop the evil Whitaker and General Koskov.

Stars: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, John Rhys-Davies

Director: John Glen

Rated: PG

Running Length: 130 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  In 1985, A View to a Kill marked Roger Moore’s seventh and final film as superspy James Bond so it was up to the longtime Bond producers to once again look for another actor to take on the legendary role.  Now, by this time the Bond character was part of the cultural landscape with most everyone being able to identify who James Bond was.  For an actor, that level of notoriety can be a difficult thing to take on and stepping into a role played by three men on screen already had its pros and cons.

It came down to two actors…both of whom had been on the shortlist of Bond replacements for several years.  For a time it looked like future Bond Pierce Brosnan would be making his debut in the role…until a last-minute option on his television series Remington Steele was picked up.  It was then that the role was given to Dalton, the Wales born classically trained actor who would make his debut with The Living Daylights.

The last Bond film with a title taken from the works of Ian Fleming, The Living Daylights is a decent debut for Dalton working with a script that was originally tailored to Brosnan.  Dalton’s Bond rights some wrongs brought on by Moore by giving 007 the edge that had been missing for most of Moore’s tenure in the role.  There’s something smart about Dalton’s approach to the role but it also keeps him a bit removed from the admittedly slight material that makes up this thrust of this outing.

Going back to the same story well involving Bond racing to stop another world war from breaking out, The Living Daylights features one of the more benign villains in Krabbe and Baker as men from two different countries uniting for world domination.  Most of their material is so jokey and played as farce that it’s hard to take either men as seriously as Dalton so desperately wants to.  Sometimes you can almost hear Dalton’s eyes rolling as Krabbe graspingly mugs for the camera.

Learning nothing from the bland Bond girl of Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill, producers cast another blonde beauty with virtually nothing to bring to the table.  D’Abo has an interestingly European look but struggles quite a bit with her accent and limited acting skills.  The chemistry between Dalton and D’Abo is next to nonexistent so it’s just a function of the script that they end up twisted in the sheets together.

With a new Bond I wished that the producers has also brought in a new director as Glen’s fourth opportunity to direct doesn’t bring anything new to the series.   Had a different director been hired I’m wondering if that would have allowed the franchise to make some needed steps forward rather than continue to coast along at the speed limit.

Pop group a-ha provides a nice title track but Maurice Binder’s credits sequence seems a little underdeveloped…it’s another case of someone coasting along on the strength of their previous work.  Pushing the envelope was something that was needed here and Binder’s effort falls flat.

The Living Daylights is a respectable first entry for our new 007 that does hint at the promise of things to come.  Dalton seems eager to please and up for the challenges of the role – based on that obvious enthusiasm I’m sure the film will please Bond fans that were waiting for something different than what Moore had been offering up.