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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/19/99

Licence to Kill

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The James Bond Special Edition DVD Collection

Licence to Kill: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
Licence to Kill: Special Edition
1989 (1999) - MGM/UA

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/A+

Specs and Features:

133 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??, in chapter ??), Amaray keep case packaging, 2 audio commentaries (one with director John Glen & actors, and one with writer/producer Michael G. Wilson & crew members), Inside Licence to Kill documentary, Kenworth truck stunt featurette, generic production featurette, still gallery, 2 theatrical trailers, Gladys Knight Licence to Kill music video, Patti LaBelle If You Ask Me To music video, Tomorrow Never Dies Sony Playstation game trailer, booklet, "computer interface" style animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (56 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Close Captioned

At last - a darker Bond, with a sharper, meaner edge. Some have said that this film is too dark, and too bloody for Bond, but I find that very much preferable to the kind of camp that particularly the Roger Moore films in this series have given us. Licence to Kill was Timothy Dalton's second (and last) go-round as 007, and while he may have been in the role for only 2 films, I think he made a great Bond. I'd definitely rank him above Roger Moore - he's just got that menacing look in his eyes that I'm looking for in someone packing a Walther PPK and a license to kill, know what I mean?

The story here is plenty simple, and is based in part on an unfilmed scene in Ian Fleming's novel Live and Let Die. While on the way to the wedding of his friend, CIA agent Felix Lighter, Bond and Felix are diverted to the Bahamas, where a notorious drug smuggler, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), has suddenly surfaced. Bond and Felix soon find themselves in a firefight (in their tuxes and all), and manage to apprehend Sanchez, parachuting back to the wedding just in time for the ceremony. All's well that ends well, and Felix is happily married. But, Sanchez's men stage a daring daylight raid to break him out, and once free, Sanchez strikes back. He pays a visit to Felix on his wedding night, kills his bride, and feeds his legs to the fishes. Bond finds them both, and manages to get Felix medical attention just in time to save his life. But Bond is enraged, and decides to use whatever means necessary to avenge his friend. Hell hath no fury like 007.

Shot almost entirely on location in Mexico to save on the budget, Licence to Kill boasts some impressive action sequences, and a good supporting cast. Frank McRae is entertaining as a mutual friend of Bond and Lighter, who helps 007 go after Sanchez. And Davi is perfect as Sanchez himself - he's a bad guy you can definitely hate. Wayne Newton even makes an appearance as a New Age guru, whose organization acts as a front for Sanchez's operations (okay, so Wayne gets a bit irritating). Also interesting in this film, is a subplot in which Bond must go against the orders of Her Majesty's government in order to pursue his vendetta. Despite this, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) decides to do a little field work of his own, coming to 007's aide with a duffel bag full of helpful gadgets.

Licence to Kill makes a great special edition DVD. The disc includes anamorphic widescreen video, and the color and contrast exhibited are excellent, as is the shadow delineation. But there's an excessive amount of edge enhancement in the picture, which results is some nasty aliasing in some scenes (look at the shot at the beginning, for example, where the lear jet is landing - yuck!). This one problem aside, however, the video looks fine, and the print used for the transfer was of good quality - fine-grained, with very little dust apparent. The audio isn't quite as good. The 5.1 mix is rather flat sounding across the front hemisphere, with little atmospheric fill from the rear channels. There's lots of nifty surround sound effects from the rear, but the feel is very directional - this is not the most unified, natural sound field I've heard. This soundtrack is also somewhat lacking in bass. Still, the dialogue is clear, and the music is well placed in the mix. I'd say this is above average, but not awesome. French 2.0 sound is also available.

But let's get to the good stuff. Can we possibly talk about a Bond special edition DVD without raving about the extras? Of course not. This disc includes two full-length commentary tracks, one with the director, John Glen, and some of the actors, and the other with writer/producer Michael Wilson, and other crew members. There is a good, 32-minute documentary, Inside Licence to Kill. There's a packed still gallery section, 2 theatrical trailers, and another 5-minute, generic production featurette. Also included is a 9 -minute piece (by truck manufacturer Kenworth) on the making of the truck stunt scenes, and two soundtrack music videos - one by Patti LaBelle, and one of the title song by Gladys Knight. Of course, you get the by-now-familiar Tomorrow Never Dies Playstation game trailer. I wonder how much Sony paid to get this on damn near every disc in this set? And, as always, the disc boasts those awesome 1K Studios menu screens (see below). I really dig these things. Good menus should get you in the mood to experience the film, and these menus are such a nice nod to the opening credit sequences of the Bond films - I can't wait to see what 1K does with them next.

If you're looking for grittier, bolder, badder Bond, Licence to Kill is just what the doctor ordered. And I've got a suggestion for the folks responsible for the Bond series - if Pierce Brosnan decides to pack it in after The World is Not Enough, how about bringing Dalton back? In the meantime, give this DVD a spin and enjoy. Heck - get 'em all while you're at it.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

A look at 1K Studio's animated menus for Licence to Kill...
Licence to Kill menu animation

Licence to Kill menu animation

Licence to Kill menu animation

The James Bond Special Edition DVD Collection

License to Kill: Special Edition

The James Bond DVD Collection, Volume One

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