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Awesome: 3.39%
Worth A Look84.75%
Just Average: 5.08%
Pretty Crappy: 5.08%
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7 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Matador, The
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by Erik Childress

"James Bond's Lady Friends Didn't Sound This Dirty"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Some Bonds will always be James Bond. Can you remember anything else Roger Moore did? The name George Lazenby will always be synonymous with his solo entry into the franchise. Even Timothy Dalton and his two stints are hard to shake off such a stirring character. Sean Connery managed it, although mostly well after his run. But you have to give it up for Pierce Brosnan, who has been spinning the Bond image to his advantage in films like The Thomas Crown Affair remake and his slithery, cheeky agent in The Tailor of Panama. Both not far removed from the martini-swilling super spy. And neither is his character in The Matador, although you’ve never seen the Pierce quite like this before. And damn if he isn’t hilarious.

He plays Julian Noble, “a facilitator of fatalities” which is just his fancy way of saying “hitman.” Like all assassins he’s a loner, following orders and going wherever the job takes him. It certainly doesn’t leave him any time for friends; unless they are of the female variety for the evening. Any man who walks across a hotel lobby in just his Speedo and boots is going to draw that “look away” kind of attention and let’s face a hard fact – mustaches can make even the most dead handsome of guys look like a creepy retired porn star.

In Mexico City, Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) is on business; a very important deal that his wife, Bean (Hope Davis) and him are counting on to keep them financially afloat. The amiable Danny strikes up some idle small talk with Julian at the bar; a social trait that the facilitator lacks couth in. Julian’s highlight colloquisms would shame the dirtiest of Friar’s Club guests.

Realizing friends don’t come easy to him; Julian quickly corrects himself and makes himself a buddy for the duration of his trip. Making amends the best he can; he even gives in to tell Danny what he does for a living. Fascinated by the counterpoint to his suburban lifestyle, Danny even gets a firsthand demonstration on the logistics of setting up your mark, distracting your opposition and making a clean getaway. With the pleasure part of their respective business trips over, the men part ways, not realizing how their encounter is about to affect both of them.

The Matador floats such a familiar boat about opposites attracting and hitman clichés that we’ve probably already made up our minds on exactly where it’s heading. Well you’ll be right and quite wrong. Richard Shepard’s script takes us right up to the moment of inevitability and then veers us just slightly off path enough to keep us from getting settled onto the same ol’ road. Plot wise, the material is rather slight and to reveal anything past Mexico would probably get me to the end credits in less than three sentences. However, it moves along so briskly and confidently that we’re thinking anything but “are we there yet?” Plus, any film that can turn a song by Asia into a perfectly rousing anthem has to be given its props.

Brosnan’s performance here is a sincere treasure; possibly the most entertaining of his career. He’s got Bond down, but we’ve been following that character for 40 years. Julian Noble is like the down-and-out version of his Tailor of Panama character. Still good at his job to a point, sees the women as nothing but yum-yums and so out of the loop that he probably hasn’t trusted anyone in decades. We wait with belated breath how inappropriate the next words out of his mouth will be and he still catches us off guard. Kinnear is a great straight man for him and Hope Davis delivers a giddily funny turn as the wife who goes all gooey not for the man, but for his gun.

Writer/director Shepard certainly deserves his share for putting the words into Brosnan’s mouth. The offbeat dynamic on display has been seen everywhere from The Whole Nine Yards to Collateral, but the comedy is substantially less broad and it feels far less than just a gimmick. Julian and Danny are rich characters, grasping for something more but not ready to come to terms with what they wish for. They don’t always put it into words, they just forget to shave. The Matador is solid entertainment through and through and will be worth seeing again and again just to watch Brosnan mop up the scenery. Hopefully, future Bonds will be given such the chance.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11263&reviewer=198
originally posted: 02/09/05 11:45:04
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User Comments

5/14/07 matt absolute crap. totally mismarketed and boring as all hell. and gay undertones? 2 stars
9/13/06 Brinzan Dumitru Nice to see Brosnan outside the "Bond" suit. The duo Brosnan-Kinnear is very enjoyable! 4 stars
9/08/06 Ariel Patience pays off: once we got to the end, we decided it was worthy of a second watch. 5 stars
9/06/06 Albert I had a good time with this flick.. 4 stars
8/12/06 Indrid Cold Pointless and awkward. I didn't notice until now, but Brosnan isn't that great of an actor 3 stars
7/16/06 Phil M. Aficionado Different and thoroughly enjoyable; Brosnan does an outstanding job 4 stars
7/12/06 ad surprisingly good and funny 4 stars
7/11/06 Rick Great movie; Brosnan was fantastic, and I loved the ending. 5 stars
7/09/06 matt starts out great, but slow pacing and no story. not enough action or comedy 3 stars
7/04/06 Caiphn Witty banter gets tired quick. I'm at a loss how this got such consistantly good reviews. 2 stars
3/13/06 Laura Very funny; highly quotable. Definately worth seeing! 4 stars
2/06/06 Elizabeth S Great interplay between Brosnan and Kinnear. Not quite as funny as expected. 3 stars
1/29/06 Negman Weak characterization leading to anti-climax 2 stars
1/28/06 ajay very funny. certainly worth a look. 4 stars
1/24/06 Ole Man Bourbon Really silly, but a lot of giggles. 4 stars
1/24/06 Mike V First time I've ever REALLY liked a Pierce Brosnan performance. 4 stars
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  30-Dec-2005 (R)
  DVD: 04-Jul-2006

  24-Feb-2006 (15)


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