Licence to Kill is a film of firsts and lasts. It was the first film in the Bond series to not use the title of an Ian Fleming story. And the first time that a Bond girl — Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) — would ever drink one of 007’s signature vodka-martini cocktails.
It’s the final Bond film to be directed by John Glen, the last to feature actors Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny, and the final Bond film for screenwriter Richard Maibaum, composer John Barry, title designer Maurice Binder, producer Albert R. Broccoli and lead actor Timothy Dalton.
As Felix Leiter has his leg torn apart by a shark and his young wife is killed on the day of their marriage, Bond has a flashback to the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Now, he will have his revenge — which echoes both Yojimbo and the spaghetti remake of that film, A Fistful of Dollars — in the most violent and brutal Bond film until Daniel Craig took the role.
Robert Davi is great as this film’s heavy, Franz Sanchez, Latin America’s most powerful drug lord who has been wanted by the DEA for years. After Bond and Leiter bust him, he pays his way out — Everett McGill (Reverend Lowe from Silver Bullet and Daddy from The People Under the Stairs) is the corrupt DEA man — and attacks the CIA agent and kills his wife (Priscilla Barnes).
Making this film even better is the fact that Sanchez’s henchmen — and women — are all played by great talents. Anthony Zerbe (The Omega Man and, yes KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park), Talisa Soto (Mortal Kombat) and an amazingly young Benicio del Toro excel in this film. Even Wayne Newton shows up in this!
Now, it was time for the Bond franchise to reinvent itself all over again. Luckily, there was someone waiting in the wings who was ready to be 007 for literally decades.