Blogalongabond 17 (and 16): Goldeneye and Blogalongbond April catch-up of Licence to Kill

Firstly as April was a super busy time and I was unable to do BlogalongBond, this month is a two parter catch up. Yes I could have easily just forgotten about April and continued with May, but such is the importance of April’s featured Bond film that this was just unthinkable. So I had to do it. Apologies for this long ass post.

v   Blogalongbond Goldeneye

The year is 1995 James Bond is back after a 6 year absence with a new film.  The Berlin Wall has already fallen down and with it the notion that communism actually works and yet we are left here with a bond fighting the out of date enemy of the Russians. The opening introduction is terrific; one of the best. A bungee jump scene and Brosnan and Sean Bean taking on the Russkies was pretty awesome, though what lets it down is the end where Brosnan dives off a cliff to catch a plane; which is some superman shit that holds no believability.

The comment below from Judi Dench’s M is self depreciating irony of the film and rings true:

“I think that you are a sexist misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold war, whose boyish charms are wasted on me …”

Unfortunately to say Pierce Brosnan’s version of James Bond is not precisely inspirational. To me this is really puzzling, because he is a very good actor and more importantly he looks the part. The problem though which is evident in Goldeneye, is that after the detour of Licence to Kill, Brosnan is trying too hard to revive the retro feel of Sean Connery’s swinging sixties stint as the spy. This would be okay if they were making the film Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged me and Britain was not in the midst of a recession but they aren’t and this is not a comedy. He is not entirely to blame though. The script, plot and direction ricochets echoes of the best and favourite Bond films. Brosnan to his credit does a decent enough job regardless but the Thomas Crown Affair is the best of his Bond films, although it’s not entirely a Bond film.

Then there is the female villain Xenia Onatopp, (get it?) who gets off by killing her victims in the midst of foreplay. The actress Famke Janssen really goes for it in this role and I tip my hat off to her but let’s face it; it is a bit silly innit? Maybe the thrill she gets is from preventing the man from reaching his sexual nirvana before she reaches hers through death…this is the extent of my sexual theory. To any extent “I will have what she is having”.

The other supporting characters support the film well especially Judy Dench, the nasty Gottfried John as general Ourumov, Alan Cumming and my favourite Robbie Coltrane who does a good Russian accent and nearly castrates Pierce’s Bond. (what is it with castration in these films?) There is also a good and funny early film appearance from Minnie Driver who is attempting to strangle a cat with the song “stand by your man”. The red headed love intrest who I have forgotten her name already was one of the worst Bond girls ever to grace the franchise.

To summarise Goldeneye is a good film but silly in many parts. The computer game is way better though.

v   Blogalong catch up Licence to Kill

For those participants of the blogalongbond or those who have seen the 16 Bond films up until now, watching Licence to Kill will seem like the black sheep of the James Bond opus. To put in simpler terms it is so different from anything that has gone on before or since. It has the feel of your typical 80’s action thriller and in this respect I am referring to the gruesome violence. This is very much made the American way substituting Bond clichés for American ones; it has the look and feel of a Richard Donner or Tony Scott movie, but with more subtleness. Though it does play the same game of Lethal Weapon and Beverley Hills Cop it is somehow superior to them both.

Felix Leiter

Felix Leiter is a recurring James Bond ally within the Bond franchise but don’t expect any continuity with this character. He was last seen in The Living Daylights played by John Terry (yes look at the credits but unfortunately not by the namesake plonker below), and was played by the black but surely excellent Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale and Quantum Solace.

In fact Leiter has officially been played by 7 different actors and in Licence to Kill it is the second outing for David Hedison as the character, having previously played him in Live and Let Die albeit with less grey hair.  In most of the Bond films this character serves the function to only show the very special relationship that Britain has with America, but just like in Casino Royale, Licence to Kill offers a more important part within the plot; the object for Dalton’s revenge. Something is clearly haunting Bond when Leiter’s newlywed teases him by tossing her garter. Puzzled by Bond’s response she asks her husband whether she has done something wrong and Leiter replies that “he was married once”. It is highly ironic because Bond’s vengeance is not just fuelled by the murder of his best friend Leiter and his wife, but by the memory of his own wife being murdered in Leiter’s subtle reference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

I will see you in hell!

Vengeance is mine!!

You can say that this is a spy movie, because in the literal sense there is a lot of spying but as far as espionage goes comparatively to what we know from Bond films this is nonexistent. Specifically if we are to analyse it License to Kill is more of a revenge action movie and Bond makes do with little necessity for using any gadgets. This supports the fact that in this movie Bond is not on an official mission from Mi6 but is operating as a renegade in a country where he has no authority. Therefore the title of the film Licence to Kill is blatantly an ironic one because killing is the one thing that Dalton’s Bond is not allowed to do. The final showdown between Sanchez and Bond results in Bond using a cigar lighter that Leiter had given him at the start of the film to set Sanchez on fire, and providing Sanchez with the understanding for Bond’s reasons in pursuing him. Vengeance has never been so sweet though this does seem eerily similar to the final scenes in Once Upon A Time in the West.

In relation to its time:

Licence to Kill is part revenge, part war on drugs. Really and truly this should be called Scarface Bond, such is its predilection with drugs and its character study of a drug baron, with the absence however of a certain leetle friend. Made in 1989, drugs were big business for cartels in some countries in South America and a major problem for the government of the United States of America.

In 1989 the year of LTK’s release, the US implemented Operation Just Cause; an initiative to capture General Manuel Noriega in Panama whose drug trafficking activities had been condoned by the CIA since the 1960’s. At the same time in Colombia a certain Pablo Escobar was at the peak of his power. He was untouchable claiming that the essence of his cocaine business was:  “simple- you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to get your money back.”  In 1989 Forbes magazine estimated Escobar’s personal net worth close to $3 billion, while his Medellin cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market.

Therefore the similarities between Franz Sanchez (the drug baron villain of the film) General Manuel Noriega and Pablo Escobar are clearly evident, with just a hint of Tony Montana; though Robert Davi does a better job of a Hispanic accent than Pacino.

Trios women

One of the appealing aspects of the film is that it has gives a significant amount of attention to the ménage e trios subplot between Bond, Pam Bouvier and Lupe Lamora. Admittedly Lupe is the hottest of two but it is Pam (tiene mi cuarazon) that is able to pull the heart strings and who you hope that Tim will come to his senses for.

Pam Bouvier makes a case for being one of the best Bond girls

Pam Bouvierplayed by Carey Lowel is what all Bond girls should aspire to (take note Naomi Harris). To look at, she seems a bit plain and with the short cut bob hairstyle is made to look tomboyish. This transgender theme is expanded further in somewhat cliché way by her ability to mix it with the big boys. Take the scene at the Barrelhead bar which is her first introduction to James Bond. When a man grabs her from behind she is able to overturn him and leave him flat on his back, and is more than comfortable using a shotgun. In truth, if you are ever involved in a bar room brawl you sure are going to want to have Pam Bouvier with a shotgun with you. The case for Bouvier being the best Bond girl rests on the fact that she is more than just tits candy for Bond to have his wicked way with. She serves a proactive role within the narrative and is far from timid, as let’s face it most Bond girls are. Okay Ursula Undress had THAT bikini, but Pam Bouvier has balls.

What they said about Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill was not the financial success that it should have been, nor is it talked about in the same breath as Goldfinger or Dr. No, when perhaps it should be. Maybe it’s extreme detour from the Bond template did harm to this or the increased violence, but the rating system did not help. Reviews were mixed: “Dalton … is really quite hopeless” said Tom Hibbert from Empire giving the film 2/5 stars, while on the other hand Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ /4 stars claiming “License to Kill is one of the best of the recent Bonds.”.

What the Illbomb says about Licence to Kill

Obviously Tom Hibbert is not a real movie critic. It is a pity this was Dalton’s last Bond film as the dark direction he was taking character in would have reinvigorated the franchise for the better. However at least he is able to maintain a 100% record of quality Bond films which is a feat that no actor has been able to do.

The Illbomb List showing License to Kill’s place in the goodness of Bond films

  1. Goldfinger
  2. Licence to kill
  3. Dr. No
  4. The living daylights
  5. Casino Royale
  6. From Russia with love
  7. On her majesty’s secret service
  8. Live and let die
  9. The man with the golden gun
  10. Goldeneye

One comment

  1. […] New Labour and all we have to signify this is an amazing stunt piece over the Millennium Dome. Goldeneye self-referentially addressed this lack of moving with the times from the dinosaur speech from M, […]

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