Licence to Kill

dir. John Glen

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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When his ex-CIA pal Felix Leiter is horribly mutilated by a Latin American drug lord, Bond quits the Secret Service to seek revenge south of the border in this tough, gritty entry in the series.

Timothy Dalton's second Bond film was castigated for its violence and grimness, but it has weathered the criticisms to emerge as one of the stronger films in the series. When Bond's ex-CIA pal Felix Leiter is horribly mutilated, and his wife murdered, by drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), Bond quits the Secret Service to carry out his own private mission of revenge. Following Sanchez to the (fictional) Latin American nation of Isthmus, which the drug lord runs as a virtual private fiefdom, Bond enlists the aid of ex-army pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and works his way into Sanchez's confidence through his beautiful mistress Lupe (Talisa Soto) on the way to a fiery showdown on the side of a mountain. Despite its striving for gritty realism, Licence to Kill still has plenty of time for spectacle: the airborne capture of Sanchez in the opening teaser, Bond's aquatic-to-aerial escape from machine-gunning motorboats, and the truly remarkable final chase between three tanker trucks, a plane, and assorted other vehicles down a twisting mountain road, rightfully take their place as some of the series' best setpieces.