'The Matador' *** 030806
Theatrical Review (2005)

The work = ***
Pierce Brosnan is a good actor who doesn’t often get credit for it because of some of the lighter films he is in. “Bond, James Bond,” can be a tricky identity to lose and in Brosnan’s case it is a role that he held for a long time and even did a series called 'Remington Steele' as a sort of warm up for the part. I bring this up because here, in 'The Matador', Brosnan plays a globe trotting assassin name Julian who could almost seem like another Bond. “Could” is the key word because Julian plays almost like the polar opposite of James Bond.

Sure he is secretive, and meets many exotic women, and yes, he travels to many exotic locales. Thing is, the women are all prostitutes, and Julian is a smarmy chain smoking drunk who has probably collected more STDs than he will ever know. The role made me think of the film 'The Tailor of Panama' in which Brosnan gave another great performance as a sort of loser James Bond British Intelligence Agent. In 'The Matador' Brosnan takes what would have been a caricature and makes him seem like a real person. Julian has been playing his game so long that he has no friends, no home, and nothing to show for his life’s work.

He seems to be bottoming out and one night in a Mexican bar he meets an American businessman named Danny (Greg Kinnear.) They strike up a drunken conversation and hit it off. Well, actually Danny tries to be nice to Julian and ends up insulted and confused by Julian’s abrasive and offensive demeanor. In fact, the passive aggressive nature of Julian should have been enough signal to send Danny running but darn it, Danny is a nice (and kinda’ naive) guy. Kinnear too gives a great performance and it is his, Brosnan’s, and Hope Davis (as Danny’s wife Bean,) carry the movie and make it worth seeing.

Writer and Director Richard Shepard has constructed funny characters and he lets them play off each other with very funny results. The trouble comes towards the end of the film when things start to slow down and the last quarter of the movie simply does not live up to the first 3/4. While the final moments of the film do work what leads up to them really don’t work quite as well as they could have. I think had the film actually been a bit longer and maybe flushed out the concluding events of the film more than 'The Matador' would have seemed like a stronger film to me.

Still, I can’t deny that I really enjoyed most of 'The Matador'. Brosnan, Kinnear, and Davis all work very well together and Shepard puts together some great scenes for them to play out with one another. I can recommend this one, especially if you are a fan of any of the cast and/or of dark comedies but I can’t give it the high recommendation I would like to because of the concluding motions. Reccomended.


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