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Most recent Bond movie the mose serious, violent in years

Tearsheets: Loews Theaters

Suggested headline: Schizoid James Bond offers imbalance of serious and silly stuff

LICENCE TO KILL

Directed by John Glen.

Written by Michael G. Wilson and

Richard Maibaum.

Starring Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, and Talisa Soto.

Now playing at the Cinema 57.

By MANAVENDRA K. THAKUR

LICENCE TO KILL stars Timothy Dalton as a renegade secret agent bent on revenge in this newest recycling of the mostly stale James Bond formula. Dalton, who is a classically trained actor, gives a better performance than Sean Connery or Roger Moore ever did. That's why this is the most serious and violent Bond in years -- the film actually has a little bit of depth, along with several gruesome deaths. Does that make the best Bond flick in years? Maybe. Has James Bond turned into George Smiley? Not bloody likely.

The story still has plenty of chic and sophistication (not to mention the requisite lighter moments) that characterized the more recent Bond films. The heroines aren't complete window dressing, but they aren't exactly the type of role models that feminists would praise either. All of this results in a thoroughly schizoid (some would say muddled) film. Undoubtedly, the best way to watch this film is to gasp at the death-defying stunts, laugh at the funny parts, and look away during the gruesome parts.

Afterwards, though, the most striking thing about the film is the fact that the producers changed the title of the film from License Revoked to Licence to Kill. They were afraid that Americans would be too dumb to understand the meaning of revoked. As for the British spelling of license in the final title, the producers figured that most Americans wouldn't notice the difference. It's hard to know whether to laugh, cry, or grit one's teeth at this news.

Maybe there's some grand metaphor to be found in the fact that the film evokes precisely the same reaction. Somehow, though, it doesn't seem worth all the worry. After all, as it is written in the end credits, "James Bond will return."