June 24th, 2009


The purpose of this little project is to tell you all about movies you might’ve missed, wouldn’t dream of watching, or movies that are in desperate need of a second chance.  If any James Bond movie was in need of another glance it’s…


LICENCE TO KILL  (1989)  ****


Licence to Kill was originally gonna be called License Revoked, but the filmmakers didn’t want anyone to confuse it with the Corey Haim-Corey Feldman laugh-riot License to Drive, so they changed it to Licence to Kill.  They also kept the British spelling of the word “Licence”, which is probably why the movie failed miserably at the box office.  (American moviegoers like their films spelled correctly, thank you very much.)  Folks, it takes a real set of balls to spell your movie incorrectly, but Licence to Kill has a pair of big brass testicles that would baffle the minds of mere mortals. 


Licence to Kill is one of the most badass movies to come out of the great year of 1989.  That was the year that gave us Tango and Cash, Road House, Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, and Karate Kid 3.  Licence to Kill is just about as good as any of those flicks and is the greatest James Bond movie that isn’t called Goldfinger. 


Now a lot of people probably wouldn’t agree with that.  I’ve read a lot of downright scathing reviews of this movie, but to me nothing could be further from the truth.  Most of the complaints seem to stem from the fact that James Bond (Timothy Dalton) goes up against a ruthless drug dealer instead of the usual megalomaniacal madman comic book style villain.  (More than one reviewer likened it to an “overlong Miami Vice episode”.)  I disagree wholeheartedly.  Cocaine was topical in the 80’s.  Just as space exploration (which was the basis for You Only Live Twice) was on the pulse of America in the 60’s and solar energy (which was the basis for The Man with the Golden Gun) was a hot button issue in the 70’s, cocaine and the subsequent “War on Drugs” was on everybody’s mind (and nose) in the 80’s.  So you see, it’s only natural that a Bond movie would eventually focus on the #1 narcotic of that excessive decade.


What I dig about Licence to Kill is that it roots James Bond in a more realistic world, which keeps things fresh.  Although the usual Bond shenanigans still occur, they’re grounded in (semi) reality for a change.  There are hot women, but this time they’re actually vital to the plot and have a brain for once.  The villain’s plan is ludicrous (he’s smuggling cocaine in gasoline tankers), yet it’s somewhat plausible.  Q (Desmond Llewellyn) is given a larger role, but his gadgets aren’t nearly as farfetched and goofy.  The stunts are still outrageous (the semi-truck finale is some of the best stuntwork you’ll see), but it still looks like it MIGHT happen.  (Okay, maybe not the semi-truck-doing-a-wheelie thing.)


The biggest change is with Bond himself.  While he does say some funny lines in the flick, they’re more ironic and cold-blooded than the usual stupid puns.  Bond also doesn’t have a lot of time for broads in this one as his mission is strictly revenge.  That of course doesn’t stop him from banging two bitches though. 


It sickens me when people say that Daniel Craig reinvented James Bond in Casino Royale, because Timothy Dalton was doing the same exact thing 17 years earlier and no one gave a shit.


In the pre-credit sequence, Bond captures a notorious drug dealer named Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) before parachuting into his buddy Felix Leiter’s (David Hedison) wedding.  Then we have to listen to a thoroughly lame ass title song by Gladys Knight.  You know, I used to think that Licence to Kill was just about the worst damn Bond song ever until I heard Madonna’s Die Another Day.  Knight’s song sounds like Live and Let Die compared to that shit.


Wait a minute, where was I?  Oh yeah, the imprisoned Sanchez offers an open bribe to anyone who will spring him out of jail.  A sleazy FBI agent named Killifer (Everett McGill from Silver Bullet) takes the bribe and stages a daring underwater rescue.  Meanwhile, Bond heads over to Felix’s reception just in time to catch the bride’s (played by Mallrats’ Priscilla Barnes) garter and remind everybody that he used to be married.  When Felix carries his wife over the threshold, Sanchez and his bodyguard Dario (Benicio del Toro) are waiting for them and get back at Felix by killing his wife and feeding (part of) him to a Great White Shark.  Bond finds his buddy in a body bag with a note that reads, “He disagreed with something that ate him”.  Luckily, Felix is still alive. 


But just because Felix survived, doesn’t stop James from going out for revenge anyway.


I’m not even going to go into the plot specifics on this one because the surprises are part of what makes Licence to Kill so much damn fun.  I will say that Bond infiltrates Sanchez’s ranks and plays his men against him, The Man with No Name style.  Any movie that channels both Death Wish AND A Fistful of Dollars has classic written all over it in my book.  If that wasn’t cool enough, Licence to Kill features people being stuffed into a vault full of maggots, death by electric eels, dudes getting blown up in decompression chambers, guys being shredded into industrial combines, semi-trucks doing unbelievable stunts, and best of all…Wayne Newton! 


Speaking of excellent performances, Davi is thoroughly awesome in this movie and exudes a real sense of menace.  Del Toro is also aces as the scummy Dario and Anthony (KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park) Zerbe is appropriately slimy as another henchmen.  The eye candy is nice in this one as Carey Lowell (the future Mrs. Richard Gere) looks damn fine and proves to be Bond’s equal in the action department.  (The scene where she busts up a sleazy bar fight is pretty memorable.)  Talisa (Mortal Kombat) Soto is also quite yummy as Sanchez’s woman.  Thankfully, the Bond producers didn’t go totally Women’s Lib like they did on The Living Daylights and allow James to bang both of them.


The movie really belongs to Dalton though.  He’s all business in this one and doesn’t have time for the usual quips.  He’s a far more brutal Bond than most moviegoers were used to, which is another reason why American audiences didn’t cotton to the film.  Because of the poor box office, Dalton never got another chance to portray Bond and it’s kind of a shame.  Folks, do me a favor and next time they’re running a Bond Marathon on TBS or Spike TV, check out Licence to Kill.  You’ll be glad you did.


Even though Bond isn’t really funny in this flick, Sanchez does get some great dialogue like, “You took the words right out of my pocket!”  The best part though comes after he blows up the guy in the decompression chamber.  There’s a whole bunch of blood on Sanchez’s money and his henchmen asks what they should do about it and he replies, “Launder it!”


Licence to Kill is Number 9 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten List for 1989, sandwiched in between Back to the Future 2 and Meet the Feebles.

Next time Vacuumers, we’ll discuss the reason why Nicolas Cage is a legend around these parts.  If you’ve never seen his out-there beyond gonzo performance in a little movie called Deadfall, then my friends, you haven't been to the movies.  See you then…


Okay, I usually only review “movies” and wasn’t going to review this because it’s technically a “series”, originally aired on the internet, and is only about 45 minutes long.  Since it was created by Joss Whedon, the creator of one of my personal favorite TV shows of the past decade or so, Firefly, and stars that show’s star, Nathan Fillion, I decided what the heck.  The fact that it was all about superheroes and villains didn’t hurt either.


Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) is a would-be super-villain who airs a blog where he talks about his various diabolical plans.  He also falls in love with a cute chick named Penny (Felicia Day) in a Laundromat who barely notices him.  After one of Dr. Horrible’s evil schemes gets thwarted by his arch-nemesis Captain Hammer (Fillion), Penny falls in love with the square-jawed do-gooder, which real gets the low-rent villain mad.


Oh, and did I mention it’s a musical?


Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is hit-or-miss for the most part, yet it has enough good-natured random-ass weirdness (wait until you see “Bad Horse”) to charm just about anybody.  The songs are all OK and even though they aren’t very catchy or memorable, they are performed with unabashed glee by the cast, which helps a lot.  And at 45 minutes, it’s a perfect length for your attention span.  


The cast by the way is excellent.  Harris runs the gamut of emotions here and although his character is totally unbelievable, he invests 100% into his role and makes Dr. Horrible a fully three-dimensional human being.  Fillion looks like he’s having a blast playing the role of the idiot hero and Day has a plucky glow about her that fits her character nicely.


I don’t know quite how all this would pan out if it ever became a “real” show, but one thing’s for sure, I’d definitely would give it a look-see.