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Special Edition

LICENCE TO KILL ($35) ranks amongst the very best of the James Bond adventures, not because of the gadgetry and stunt work, but because this is one of the few films that depict 007 as a human being, willing to place his loyalty to his friends above those of Queen and country. Basically, LICENCE TO KILL is a tale of revenge on the personal level, which strips away the self-parody of earlier Bond adventures, thus returning the character to the way he is depicted in Ian Fleming’s stories.

The film opens with James Bond (Timothy Dalton) on his way to the wedding of his good friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison). When drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) makes an unexpected stop inside U.S. jurisdiction, Bond and Leiter take a pre-wedding detour, in which they are able to capture Sanchez. Unfortunately, Sanchez escapes and comes after Leiter and his new bride on their wedding night. When Bond hears about the escape, he decides to check on his old friend and finds Leiter horribly maimed and his new wife dead. With Sanchez now outside U.S. jurisdiction, Bond decides to take matters into his own hands and goes after the drug kingpin.

Her Majesty’s government wants nothing to do with Bond’s personal vendetta, so they orders Bond to cease all such activities against Sanchez. Unwilling to let Sanchez escape justice, Bond refuses his government’s orders. With his licence to kill is revoked, Bond is forced to turn into a rouge agent, and finds himself pursued by his former fellow agents. Even though he is no longer a part of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond discovers that his old friend Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is unwilling to leave him in a lurch, delivering a bag of tricks suitable to the task of bringing down Sanchez.

While LICENCE TO KILL is takes a darker and simpler approach than the somewhat more overblown James Bond adventures, action fans will not be disappointed by this outing. The movie features some very impressive stunt work, especially the film’s climatic truck chase, which is a first rate rush. Additionally, the cast of LICENCE TO KILL is excellent. For my money, Timothy Dalton was a great James Bond, perfectly embodying the darker aspects of the character, while keeping Bond a suave and a very likable hero.

As drug lord Franz Sanchez, Robert Davi portrays a villain grounded in reality; this proves to be far scarier than the typical megalomaniac intent on world domination. LICENCE TO KILL was the last Bond adventure in which Desmond Llewelyn was afforded more than five minutes screen time as Q. Llewelyn’s irrepressible presence certainly helps take the dark edge of the proceedings, making the film more accessible to long time fans. As the Bond Girls, Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto are certainly up to the task of being incredibly beautiful, plus they aren’t half bad as actresses either. The cast of LICENCE TO KILL also features Anthony Zerbe, Frank McRae, Everett McGill, Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Starke, Pedro Armendariz, Priscilla Barnes, Robert Brown, Caroline Bliss, Don Stroud and Wayne Newton, who is a hoot-and-a-half as Professor Joe Butcher.

MGM Home Entertainment has given LICENCE TO KILL a new 16:9 enhanced presentation that looks very, very good. The film is framed at a proper 2.35:1 and the transfer provides a sharp and usually well-detailed image. Even though the movie is only from 1989, there are spots where newer film stocks have an edge in clarity, over those available only a decade ago, so LICENCE TO KILL doesn’t always look as detailed as a new film. Additionally, the film element used for this transfer shows occasional blemishes, which is surprising since the movie is still relatively new. Color reproduction is excellent; all of the hues are well saturated, while flesh tones maintain a natural appearance. Neither chroma noise nor bleeding is apparent on this fine looking presentation. Blacks are faithfully recreated, plus the image boasts smooth contrast and a good level of shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts are not a concern on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack sports a new mix that won’t disappoint action movie fans. There are plenty of directional effects across the forward soundstage, as well as in the rear channels, which are utilized for split surround effects. Sounds pan around and are well synchronized with the on-screen action, especially those sequences involving moving vehicles. Dialogue is always clean and intelligible, plus the bass channel supplies the required kick for the film’s explosions. A French language soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

The interactive menus on this Special Edition DVD are beautifully designed and incorporate animation, sound and full motion video. Through the menu system one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD’s extensive supplements. Topping the list of extras are two audio commentaries, one featuring director John Glen and some of the actors, while the other features producer Michael G. Wilson and members of the production team. Both commentaries offer their rewards, but these are not running commentaries, instead audio interviews edited together to cover a wide range of topics. Also included on the DVD is Inside Licence To Kill, a thirty-minute documentary that features new on camera interviews with director John Glen and actors Robert Davi, Carey Lowell, and Benicio Del Toro. The documentary gives a lot behind-the-scenes information on the production, and also mentions the supposed "curse" that effected filming at a certain location- creepy stuff for sure. A still gallery is also provided, as are two theatrical trailers, a truck stunt featurette and a regular short production featurette. Filling out the supplements are two music videos, one by Gladys Knight for the song Licence To Kill and the other by Patti LaBelle for the song If You Asked Me To.

With LICENCE TO KILL MGM Home Entertainment delivers another first rate James Bond Special Edition DVD that no fan will want to do without. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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