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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

LICENCE TO KILL (1989)

Timothy Dalton got a bit of a raw deal with his abbreviated two-film stint as 007. Brought in to toughen up the increasing silliness (and creases) of Roger Moore’s aging agent, he had the looks, the physicality & the acting chops. What he didn’t get was the support. Instead, unmemorable storylines, flavorless super-villains and the flat megging of John Glen, a second-unit whiz who got promoted past his abilities. This title provides some of the worst acting in the series (though there’s a nice bit from a baby-faced Benicio Del Toro) and a mystifying lack of coordination between the lax staging and camera placement. The loss of some old regulars in front & behind the camera is also keenly felt, especially on that Michael Kamen score that only makes you miss John Barry’s circling motifs. The big villain, Robert Davi, and his plans to control drug distribution aren’t all that far from SCARFACE/’83, and his tricky ordering gambit, using a phone-in code via Wayne Newton’s phony tv preacher, is actually swiped from (wait for it) the Vincente Minnelli/Judy Holliday musical BELLS ARE RINGING/’60. Good grief! And yet, the film has a decent rep thanks to the final action sequence, a truly spectacular, jaw-dropping chase down a twisty road with gasoline tankers doing tricks that would be improbable on a motorcycle. All honestly performed by some deeply insane stunt drivers and captured on film in a pre-CGI era. It pastes a grin on your face that won’t quit.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Dalton’s two BOND pics did well enough for him to continue with the series, but the combination of the financial/contractual travails of the United Artists/M-G-M partnership delayed the next BOND for six years, the longest wait yet. By the time GOLDENEYE/’95 got going, Cubby Broccoli’s daughter Barbara had taken up the production reins and she wanted a clean talent sweep except for production designer Peter Lamont who stayed on for the next three, taking time out for a little thing called TITANIC/’98.

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