The Matador
The Matador

USA/Germany/Ireland, 2005. Rated R. 96 minutes.

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Phillip Baker Hall, Dylan Baker, Adam Scott
Writer: Richard Shepard
Original Music: Rolfe Kent
Cinematography: David Tattersall
Producers: Pierce Brosnan, Beau St. Clair, Sean Furst, Byran Furst
Richard Shepard


Grade: B- Review by Carlo Cavagna

M uch as Sean Connery ran from his 007 image in the Seventies, Pierce Brosnan seems determined to run away from it now—or at least to play with it a little. While he has appeared bored in his last two Bond outings, in The Tailor of Panama and his newest film, The Matador, Brosnan gives the most energized performances of his career playing anti-Bonds—debached, ruined versions of his most famous characters (as well as his Eighties TV character, Remington Steele).

Brosnan has more fun as Julian Noble in The Matador than ever he did as Bond. He tries to look as haggard and dissolute as possible as a sleazebag hit man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who is so unfiltered in the nasty things he says that he may has well have Tourette's Syndrome. Julian frequents prostitutes and ogles teenage girls. He argues with a child at a park as he stakes out a hit. He stalks through a hotel lobby wearing nothing but Speedos, boots, and his porn star moustache.

Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan leaving the scene of the crime in The Matador.

Opposite Brosnan, we have Greg Kinnear as Danny Wright, a conventional suburban professional sharing an ordered, soulless life with his wife Bean (Hope Davis). Yes, The Matador is one of those odd-couple buddy movies—but fortunately less predictable than the usual.

These unlikely two encounter each other in Mexico City, where both stay at the same hotel for work-related reasons, albeit very different work. When an extremely drunk Julian can't find a friend to telephone on his birthday, he visits the bar and strikes up a conversation with Danny, whom he does everything possible to offend and drive away. And succeeds. But of course these two encounter each other again.

A particularly strong sequence—both nail-biting and funny—is when Julian demonstrates to Danny what he does for a living by walking him through a hit. The scene works primarily because Brosnan has successfully sold his character—you have no idea what this loose cannon is going to do next. Danny discovers that he enjoys the thrill of hanging out with Julian, even if it does scare him silly. Once they part, Julian seems destined to become a fantastic cocktail party story for Danny, until he turns up unexpectedly at Danny's house in Colorado some time later, desperately needing help.

The Matador takes a warm-fuzzy turn toward the end, and the story turns out quite thin. It doesn't matter much, though, when the dialogue is clever and the actors play their roles with relish. The Matador is insubstantial, but it's fun. Good use of music, too. The prominent use of Asia's “Heat of the Moment” near the climactic moment is just as funny as it was in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. And the Killers singing “you gotta help me out” over the end credits is an appropriate closing touch.

Review © January 2006 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2005 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

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