Talk about wedding crashers. ‘License’ opens with a major interruption to CIA operative Felix Leiter’s big day. Alas, business comes first, and with horrifying consequences to the honeymoon. After a 16-year absence, David Hedison returns as Leiter, and provides a gentle, encouraging foil for his somewhat dour best man, James Bond (Timothy Dalton, in his second and final starring appearance). When agent 007 discovers his maimed American counterpart, he is overcome by one thought: revenge — which for his bosses at Her Majesty’s Secret Service also means only one thing: he’s emotional, out of control, and hence, must have his coveted license to kill – revoked.
Drawn from multiple Ian Fleming stories, the plot centers on drug deals, and is set in the still-pristine, somewhat developed Florida Keys and Mexico.
Robert Davi is deliciously evil and alarmingly cool as Franz Sanchez, leader of a multimillion-dollar drug empire: import/export, sales, refinery, and any other profit-making endeavor he can manage to squeeze from his expensive illegal commodity. What Bond acidly dismisses as “Sanchez law” is rather limited: copters, captures, and corruption. Or, as Sanchez sums it up: “Blow ’em up or bribe ’em.” And both work frighteningly well. Yet, beneath all the self-serving smooth talk and violence, the tyrant lets us in on his one redeeming quality, the credo: “Loyalty is more important to me than money.” But not by much.
Back when PAN AM was more than a kitschy television series, and genetically modified fish was merely a novelty, it was easier to build a phony research lab to aid in the smuggling. His trick: reconstituting the cocaine with gasoline – a process which might be a tad more costly today.
After Bond introduces himself to Sanchez as “a problem eliminator,” he easily infiltrates the operation. In a twisted “East meets West” effort, Sanchez beseeches, “Drug dealers of the world—unite!” And they do.
Replete with Bond-standard chases: by submarine, semi truck, and waterskiing minus the skis, the American action features plenty of killing. There are stinger missiles, fires, and a host of nautical equipment intended for other noble purposes, but readily used for murder when convenient. Also familiar: a return to exotic locales—Bimini, West Indies, and a charming (fictional) “Isthmus” in Mexico.
For the ladies, a visual treat: a very young, very fit Benicio Del Toro, as a steely, ruthless enforcer. For some comic relief, we get a smooth — OK, slimy– Wayne Newton, also on Sanchez’s payroll, as a TV preacher communicating drug prices via coded donation pleas. And for Bond, not one but two beauties: a sparkling and scene-stealing Cary Lowell plays Pam Bouvier, the sensible, skilled Army pilot-for-hire who keeps the seething Brit grounded. The other beauty: a doe-eyed and sympathetic Talisa Soto, as Sanchez’s sad and abused arm candy. Limber, with brains and might, Bouvier cannot refuse Bond’s unbelievably generous offer to fly him into Mexico to find and destroy Sanchez. And south they go.
When things go south – figuratively, Sanchez’s young lieutenant (a cherubic and likable Anthony Starke) panics, and ultimately reassures everyone with just a hint of desperate sarcasm: “Don’t worry; it’s only money.”
by Caren Ostrow
Timothy Dalton – James Bond
Robert Davi – Franz Sanchez
Carey Lowell – Pam Bouvier
Directed by: John Glen
No film in November. Next up in the ‘James Bond Originals’ series at The Colony: “Goldeneye.”