Picks and Pans Review: Licence to Kill

UPDATED 07/17/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/17/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell

THE OPENING (004 on a scale of 001 to 007): Judging by the standards of previous James Bond films (which are very high), this one begins on a routine sort of note, with the beginning sequence devoted as much to setting up the story as generating its own high. Dalton as Bond and the durable David Hedison as Bond's CIA pal Felix Leiter are on their way to Leiter's wedding in Florida, when they detour to chase a Latin American drug merchant. While the subsequent aerial acrobatics are fancy enough, they leave a lot of time to ponder such questions as why the pilot flying the villain's plane doesn't take any evasive tactics while Bond is lowering himself from a helicopter. The Spy Who Loved Me opener is still hard to beat.

THE VILLAIN (003): Robert (Die Hard) Davi is the drug dealer who ends up causing all kinds of havoc, such as the revocation of Bond's British Intelligence license to kill when Bond takes on Davi as a personal vendetta. Davi has a mean stare, but he shows none of the enjoyable dimension of, say, Gert Frobe in Goldfinger, Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill or Klaus Maria Brandauer in Never Say Never Again. Veteran Bond film writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson do give the bad guys this movie's best line, pinning a note that says, "He disagreed with something that ate him" to the body of someone they fed to the sharks.

THE SONG (004): While the redoubtable Gladys Knight sings the theme by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff, it's nowhere near Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey singing a John Barry-Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley song), From Russia with Love (Matt Munro singing a Barry-Lionel Bart song), Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings doing a Paul and Linda McCartney-George Martin song) or The Spy Who Loved Me (Carly Simon with the Marvin Hamlisch-Carole Bayer-Sager song).

THE WOMEN (007): Lowell, an ex-model whose big credit was Club Paradise, is a CIA operative who helps Dalton pursue Davi. That she's gorgeous is to be expected; she's also a physically agile, spirited actress, the equal of Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service or Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me. Talisa (Spike of Bensonhurst) Soto is Davi's moll, and Priscilla (Three's Company) Barnes is the lady who becomes Mrs. Leiter.

THE GIMMICKS (001): Desmond Llewelyn has a bigger-than-usual role as the weapons expert Q. He doesn't come up with much in the way of Bondian gadgetry though. This time poor James is more or less out there with a nightstick and a pad to write traffic tickets on.

BOND (003½): To diehards who didn't want Moore to succeed Connery and didn't want anyone to succeed Moore, Dalton will never be right, but he is a first-rate actor, is physically convincing and should seem more like the "authentic" movie Bond the longer he stays in the role.

OVERALL (003¾): This series' record of maintaining an admirable level of quality stays intact, even if this film might best be used as a cinematic appetizer to see before renting a tape of one of the Connery or Moore classics. (PG-13)

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