Franz Sanchez – No Need for a Licence to Kill
Franz Sanchez, the formidable Central American drug baron, is known for his ruthless leadership of a formidable criminal cartel. The main antagonist in the 1989 James Bond film, Licence to Kill, Sanchez’s brutal acts include maiming Felix Leiter and causing the death of his wife, sparking James Bond’s vengeful pursuit.
Portrayed by Robert Davi, Sanchez also features in John Gardner’s novelisation of the film. The character’s menacing legacy continued as Davi reprised his role in Activision’s 2012 James Bond video game, 007 Legends, keeping Sanchez’s chilling persona alive for the gaming generation.
Franz Sanchez, a Colombian drug tycoon, manages his empire from the fictional Republic of Isthmus. As the lord of a grand estate, guarded by a legion of minions and the puppet master of the city’s President, Sanchez either bribes, threatens or kills the majority of the government officials.
As the leader of a global narcotics syndicate, Sanchez is both remorseless and brutal, but also sophisticated, polished, and a man of honour. He rewards fidelity but guarantees death to anyone who betrays him.
His paranoia about the loyalty of his men allows James Bond to exploit this vulnerability, deceiving Sanchez into killing some of his own men by convincing him of their betrayal.
Driven out of his fortress by his mistress Lupe Lamora‘s unfaithfulness, Franz Sanchez journeys to the Bahamas with his main enforcers, Dario, Perez, and Braun. Discovering her with another man, Alvarez, he orders Dario to remove the man’s heart in an ironic gesture, then brutally lashes Lupe with a stingray’s tail.
As Sanchez attempts to return to the nearby airstrip, he’s intercepted by a DEA squad led by Felix Leiter and James Bond. Amid the turmoil, Sanchez steals a Beechcraft 18 and flies toward Cuba, but they pursue him in a helicopter, capturing him in mid-flight.
While being transported to Quantico, DEA agent Ed Killifer is swayed by a $2 million bribe and aids Sanchez’s escape by driving the prison van into the ocean. Underwater divers dispatched by Sanchez’s associate, Milton Krest, assist in their underwater getaway.
Simultaneously, Dario, Perez, and Braun kidnap Leiter and murder his wife Della on their wedding night. After rewarding Killifer for his loyalty, Sanchez executes his revenge on Leiter by dunking him into a Shark Tank at the Ocean Exotica warehouse.
On discovering Della dead and Felix severely injured, Bond vows to avenge them. As a result, Bond infiltrates the Wavekrest, a vessel owned by Krest, and disrupts Sanchez’s latest drug shipment, pilfering five million dollars in the process.
Following his attack on Leiter, Franz Sanchez is covertly transported back to Isthmus, where he procures four Stinger Missiles from the Contras, threatening to down an American airliner unless the DEA withdraws.
His aim to broaden his cocaine dominion to the Pacific region leads him to meet with five Asian drug kingpins, offering each an exclusive franchise in his drug trade for a million US dollars per territory. Oblivious to the fact that one of them is a Hong Kong drugs officer, he agrees to give them a tour of his main drug facility.
Bond, hot on Sanchez’s trail, also lands in Isthmus. After accruing some wins at Sanchez’s casino, Bond introduces himself as a “problem eliminator”, seeking a role within Sanchez’s organisation.
Later Bond scouts Sanchez’ premises, and notices the extensive security, including a two-inch armoured glass barrier. Attempting to shatter the window with plastic explosives, Bond tries to snipe Sanchez from a nearby construction site. Despite the explosion, two Hong Kong Narcotics officers intercept Bond’s assassination attempt, taking him into custody for questioning.
A stroke of luck happens for Bond when Sanchez and the Isthmian militia raid the building with a tank, killing the officers and saving Bond, whom they believe to be the intended target.
Now favoured by Sanchez and recovering at his private villa, Bond begins to dismantle his operation from within, leveraging Sanchez’s paranoia to turn him against his own team.
With help from informant Pam Bouvier, Q, and Sanchez’ lover, Lupe Lamora, Bond plants the stolen five million dollars on Krest’s hyperbaric chamber aboard the Wavekrest. An irate Sanchez traps Krest in the chamber, violently depressurizing it with an axe, leading to Krest’s brutal death. When Perez inquires about the money, Sanchez simply instructs him to launder it.
Impressed by Bond’s perceived loyalty, Sanchez welcomes him into his inner circle and brings him to the narcotics refinery along with the Asian delegates. Here, Bond discovers that Sanchez’s scientists have perfected a method to dissolve cocaine in gasoline, selling it disguised as fuel to Asian drug traders.
This covert transaction is conducted via televangelist Professor Joe Butcher, following orders from Truman-Lodge, who runs the day-to-day business for Sanchez. Four tanker trucks are filled with this mixture and await the drug lords’ approval.
However, during the presentation, Dario recognises Bond and exposes him to Sanchez. Bond then ignites a fire in the laboratory and tries to escape but is captured, tied up, and placed on a conveyor belt that feeds brick-cocaine into a colossal shredder.
As Bond is moving along the conveyor belt, he redirects Sanchez’s suspicious gaze to his absent head of security, Colonel Heller, hinting that Heller and his Stinger Missiles are about to vanish.
Franz Sanchez finds Heller in the process of moving the Stingers from his helicopter and instructs him to transfer them to his own car. Soon after, Heller meets his end, impaled on a forklift’s prongs.
Sanchez then makes his escape as the facility goes up in flames, commandeering the four articulated tankers while Bond and Pam Bouvier give chase in a light aircraft.
Amid the desert pursuit, three out of the four tankers explode, decimating the cartel’s profits. Sanchez resorts to using the Stingers against Bond. As more tankers go up in flames, an enraged Truman-Lodge berates Sanchez for his failures, prompting Sanchez to silence him with a Micro UZI.
When his attempt to kill Bond fails, Sanchez personally confronts Bond on the last remaining tanker, unintentionally cutting the brake line with a machete, sending the tanker careening out of control and crashing down a hillside.
Drenched in fuel and injured, Franz Sanchez lifts his blade to strike Bond, expressing his regret that Bond could have had it all under his wing, rather than betraying him.
Bond, seemingly helpless, asks Sanchez if he wants to know the reason for his actions, unveiling a cigarette lighter – a keepsake from Felix and Della Leiter’s wedding. He sparks the lighter, setting Sanchez alight and revealing his thirst for vengeance.
Sanchez, who’s now up in flames, stumbles into the wreckage of the tanker, triggering a massive explosion that ends his life, exacting revenge for Felix and Della.
Robert Davi, born in 1953 in Queens, New York, is a versatile Hollywood actor, singer, and director of Italian-Sicilian descent. Recognized for his singing talent in high school, he later studied drama at Hofstra University and trained with acting coach Stella Adler.
Davi’s acting career launched with a 1977 TV film and was followed by roles in notable films such as City Heat, The Goonies, Die Hard, Showgirls, Licence to Kill, and The Predator 2. He also directed movies, with his debut, The Dukes, premiering at the Rome Film Festival, and his most recent, the 2021 film My Son Hunter.
Despite damaging his voice, Davi returned to singing in 2011 with his acclaimed album, Davi Sings Sinatra — On The Road To Romance. Davi, a father of five from his first three marriages, married his fourth wife, Diana, in 2019, with whom he shares a daughter.