Even Hit Men Get the Blues
Imagine Pierce Brosnan as a sleazy, burned-out hit man instead of the dashing, sophisticated James Bond. In The Matador, Brosnan proves heís able to portray a character as different from 007 as night is from day -- and do it so well we donít even think about James Bond for one second while watching his incredible acting. Too bad the rest of this dark comedy fails to reach the level of Brosnan's tour-de-force performance.
The Matador pairs Brosnanís lonely, over-the-hill assassin for hire with Greg Kinnearís down-on-his-luck businessman in what emerges as primarily another odd-couple buddy movie. How do these two disparate characters become friends? Not easily at first. Julian Noble (Brosnan) and Danny Wright (Kinnear) strike up a conversation while drinking at a bar in Mexico City. Because Julian lacks any semblance of the usual social graces, he responds to Dannyís comments about the death of his young son with an obscene joke. Danny canít help being insulted -- but after Julian apologizes, he accepts an invitation to attend a bullfight with him.
While watching the bullfight, Julian reveals his true occupation to Danny. He describes it as ďfacilitating fatalities.Ē Danny thinks this is a big joke until Julian shows him how he would take out a particular member of the bullfight crowd. This sets the stage for an unbelievable plot about how Julian and Danny help each other.
I found it impossible to suspend disbelief while watching The Matador. Would an average guy like the one played by Kinnear (Stuck on You) strike up a friendship with someone he knows is a hit man -- especially one as crude as Brosnanís Julian? I donít think so. And would a man like Danny get involved in helping Julian with his ďfacilitatorĒ assignments? Same answer. Probably because of Brosnanís superb performance, I accepted Julianís behavior, but Kinnearís character didnít ring true to me. Granted, there are some amusing moments between these two men, but not enough to make their relationship seem genuine.
However, the sublime Hope Davis (The Secret Lives of Dentists) delivers a fine supporting turn here as Dannyís wife -- her eagerness to find out more about Julianís work is completely convincing. I wish she had received more screen time.
Still, The Matador belongs to Brosnan. He makes us care about Julian in spite of all his faults. Brosnanís facial expressions tell us everything we need to know about Julianís sadness and loneliness. And his body language shouts ďIím tired of all this.Ē Itís a fearless, self-effacing performance.
While greatly admiring Brosnanís acting, Iím disappointed at the amoral nature of The Matador. With this uneven film, writer/director Richard Shepard has given us another Hollywood movie suggesting that the end justifies the means.
(Released by The Weinstein Company and rated ďRĒ for strong sexual content and language.)