MGM // 1989 // 133 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 29th, 2009
"Compliments of Sharkey."
The second greatest James Bond film ever made finally hits the next generation of optical media, and I defy you to find a better looking drawer full of killer maggots.
Timothy Dalton is James Bond. If you have any issue with that, he will destroy you. After enjoying a wonderful wedding with his CIA BFF Felix, Bond is off to the top-secret next assignment when a homicidal druglord named Sanchez (Robert Davi) breaks out of prison and kills Felix's wife and feeds him to a shark. This rubs James Bond the wrong way and he promptly starts killing people until, by mere process of elimination, he ends up face to face with Sanchez, who he sets on fire but not before driving a semi truck sideways.
Licence to Kill is the cat's pajamas and only falls short of Casino Royale in terms of 007 greatness. Bold words, sure, but as Timothy Dalton would say "Go screw yourself." Before Daniel Craig blew everyone's skirt up with his tough, gritty interpretation of James Bond, T-Dalt was dropping a-holes into an electric eel aquarium and shooting them in the solar plexus with a harpoon gun.
Here was a Bond movie that reveled in the excesses of the late '80s action movie movement, building up a body count that would challenge Titanic, redefining what an id-driven Alpha male can do when he's super pissed-off and has access to unlicensed scuba equipment, introducing us to the acting prowess of a young Talisa Soto, who would go on to stun the world with her star-making turn as Princess Kitana in Mortal Kombat and bestowing upon us a legendary performance by Wayne Newton that is still talked about to this day by Wayne Newton.
More importantly the death scenes were the greatest in the franchise, which I will now rank in ascending order:
5. Maggot-boy and Electric Eel man
We'll group these two guys together and call it the "Seafood Special." Bond, infiltrating Krest's ocean zoo front, introduces these two hapless security guards who were probably just looking for some extra spending money to excruciatingly painful deaths, one by electrocution the other by a mixture of suffocation and slow biting from thousands of maggots.
4. Massive shark trauma
When Bond tracks down the crooked DEA agent who sprung Sanchez, he tosses him in a shark tank and looks down coldly and approvingly as the shark eats him to death.
3. Forklift impalement
There's some guy named Heller and he sells Stinger rockets to Sanchez and then tries to double-cross him and he ends up rammed onto a forklift. "Looks like he came to a dead end," says Bond gazing at the bloody carnage and, I presume, struggling to stifle back an inappropriate laugh.
2. Benicio del Toro reduced to a fine red mist
Before he was making high-concept Steven Soderbergh morality pictures, del Toro was a punk sidekick who met a brutally painful end by slowly falling through a cocaine grinder. How painful? He was still screaming long after his skull went through.
It's tempting to go with the Final Bad Guy Death, the Sanchez flambé, but there is no way you can look past Krest, the evil drugrunning sea captain. Suspected of stealing drug money, Krest is thrown into a decompression tank by Sanchez and proceeds to explode. We even see his stupid head inflate to the size of a beach ball with his eyes bugging out and then POP! the glass window is coated in pasty red organic matter. That, my friends, is how you push a PG-13 rating to the brink.
Onto the question at hand: is this high-def version of Licence to Kill worth getting? If you don't own it on any spinning disc yet, then this is an easy call. Buy it and love it as I have. If you've got one of the nifty ultimate edition discs, then it's a tougher choice. There's no doubting that the picture quality is given a facelift and it's easy to see the improvement. Even for an older release, the video (2.35:1 widescreen) is sharp and will satisfy if you're after a full-bodied, higher resolution treatment. The ultimate edition was so stellar, however, that the yardage between that tech and the Blu-ray isn't humongous. It's there -- this is definitely the best Licence to Kill has ever looked -- but I'm going to stop short of saying the makeover is drastic enough to mandate a re-purchase, even taking the updated, crisp 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix (which is quite good). Perhaps if there were HD-specific extras tossed in, I might change my mind, but the bonus materials are merely imported from the ultimate edition. They're great -- commentary from director John Glen, Michael Wilson and the crew, deleted scenes, featurettes spotlighting the set, production design and the stunt trucks, a making-of documentary and a pair of music videos -- but you've seen it all before.
I love this movie dearly and will defend the bodaciousness of T-Dalt until the day I die and the Blu-ray serves up noticeable upgrades to the sound and video -- but the enhancements aren't quite enough to push for a double-dip if you've got the ultimate edition already on the shelf.
Of course not guilty. Idiot.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Videos