Bond-a-Thond #16: ‘License To Kill’ (1989)

MTV Movies Blog is earning its license to kill with a feature we call the Bond-a-Thond. Every Wednesday we’re taking a look back at a single (official) Bond film, giving you the vitals and seeing how it holds up, right up until the release of “Skyfall” on November 9. Feel free to watch along with us and share your thoughts or just kick back and enjoy the Bond.

License to Kill (1989)

Plot: Bond hunts down the ruthless drug lord who mutilated Felix Leiter and killed the CIA agent’s new bride.

Title Meaning: When Bond disobeys M’s direct orders, the MI6 boss revokes his license to kill, making the hunt for Sanchez purely personal and illegal.

Song: “License to Kill” by Gladys Knight

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Bond: Timothy Dalton, in his last appearance as Bond

Villain: Franz Sanchez, a murderous drug lord, played by Robert Davi

Bond Girl: Pam Bouvier, a former CIA, played by Cary Lowell

“Bond, James Bond” Occurrences: 0

Martinis: 1

Card Games: 1

Cigarettes Smoked: 0

Explosions: 24

Tuxes Worn: 3

Kills By Bond: 11

Most Creative Kill: While fighting in some sort of aquatic center, Bond pulls a henchman into a tank of electric eels.

Gadgets: Explosive tooth paste, palm-reading camera gun

Mental State of Miss Moneypenny: Distracted

First Occurrence of Sex: 57 minutes in

Sexual Partners: 2 (Pam Bouvier, Lupe Lamora)

Most Unrealistic Moments: Bond drives an 18-wheeler on its side and performs a wheelie.

Most “Bond” Moments: Bond water skis behind a seaplane using a harpoon gun.

Signs of the Times: An incredibly young Benicio Del Toro plays Sanchez’s young henchman, Dario.

Place in Bond History: “License to Kill” holds the dubious honor of being the lowest earning Bond film in US box office history, after adjusting for inflation.

“License to Kill,” despite its financial failings, solidifies Timothy Dalton’s status as an underrated Bond. His second and final film as 007 is a fast-paced revenge thriller, moving away from the typical story catalysts, yet still embracing the formula of a Bond movie. For younger fans, who may only be familiar with Daniel Craig’s take on the super spy, Dalton makes for a great launching point into exploring the rest of the series.

Unlike the majority of the movies in the series, Bond has a believable motivation. We’ve known Felix Leiter since “Dr. No,” and when something genuinely awful happens to him, we care, and we care that Bond cares, especially when it kicks off a journey for vengeance.

Aside from the realistic framing and revenge plot, “License to Kill” also plays as simply a solid Bond movie. The stunts impress. The villain conveys menace. It’s all there. It’s no wonder that time has already begun to vindicate “License to Kill.”

The Bond-a-Thond will return next week in “GoldenEye.”

What do you think of “License to Kill”? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!