A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Licence to Kill is the 16th James Bond movie and the second -- and last -- with actor Timothy Dalton in the lead role. The producers were trying for a "darker" look and feel here, going for a PG-13 rating with stronger language and violence. More blood is shown, and there are more deaths. Language includes "s--t," "bastard," "ass," and "hell." Bond kisses and sleeps with two women, though no nudity is shown; those opening titles still feature alluring silhouettes in which the women look naked. The bad guy this time is a drug dealer, and there are many references to cocaine as well as many characters drinking and some smoking. The movie is not one of the best, but at the time it was seen as a drastic improvement over the Roger Moore movies, and it's still considered a fan favorite. It will be one of the movies that teen Bond fans will go to first.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
As Felix Leiter (Frank McRae) prepares to get married, he receives word that notorious drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) is on the move, so he and his best man, Agent 007 James Bond (Timothy Dalton), capture him. Unfortunately Sanchez escapes and attacks Felix. Bond is stripped of his license to kill but vows revenge anyway. He foils one of Sanchez's drug shipments, frames one of Sanchez's men, and manages to get himself hired as a potential sidekick. He seduces Sanchez's girlfriend Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) but falls for another spy, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). When he discovers Sanchez's ultimate plan -- to dissolve his drugs, undetected, inside tankers of gasoline -- he embarks upon a dangerous chase to bring this fight to the finish.
Is it any good?
LICENCE TO KILL was a new effort to try to "darken" the James Bond franchise, with a PG-13 rating, a use of harsher language, bloodier violence, and a plot that had Bond going rogue. But unfortunately these were superficial touches that didn't really help the movie at its core. Timothy Dalton was never a great choice as Bond, and neither of the Bond girls (Talisa Soto and Carey Lowell) are particularly interesting, nor even very good.
Meanwhile, director John Glen had been a second unit director on the Bond series since 1969 and had directed five of them himself; this was his fifth, and he seems tired. The movie often feels sloppy during certain fight scenes or lethargic during dialogue-driven scenes. But at least it was a step up from Roger Moore's ridiculous final entries, and it's still a fan favorite. Robert Davi makes a nasty villain, and Benicio Del Toro has an early role as a vicious thug. Las Vegas crooner Wayne Newton has a cameo, and Gladys Knight sings the theme song.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How did the decision to go "darker" affect this Bond movie? Does it seem more violent? More exciting?
Is the movie more or less involving, given that Bond's motive is revenge rather than trying to save the world? Why?
How are the women in this movie treated? Why are they both attracted to Bond? Would either of them be interesting in a movie of their own?
How do you feel about the villain being a drug dealer? How are drugs portrayed in the movie?
- In theaters: July 14, 1989
- On DVD or streaming: October 22, 2002
- Cast: Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi
- Director: John Glen
- Studio: United Artists
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action violence and drug content
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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