The Matador
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Richard Shepard
with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Scott, Dylan Baker, Antonio Zavala, Portia Dawson, Maureen Muldoon, Erin Batsford, Roberto Sosa, Jonah Meyerson
release US 23.Dec.05,
UK 3.Mar.06
05/US Miramax 1h36

You must be kidding: Brosnan and Kinnear

brosnan kinnear davis

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The Matador There's some intelligent subtext in this buddy comedy that makes it slightly more engaging than most, even when the plot starts to stretch rather thin in the final act.

Julian Noble (Brosnan) is a globe-hopping hired assassin. He's also a bit of a swaggering drunken womaniser, who lives out of his suitcase and has no friends or family. On a job in Mexico City, he crosses paths with struggling businessman Danny Wright (Kinnear), and the two become unlikely friends. But Danny is offended when Julian tries to get him to help with a hit. Six months later, their paths cross again, and this time it's Julian who's struggling.

Writer-director Shepard shows considerable skill with both the imagery and the wordplay. Sharp dialog keeps us laughing--the humour is earthy and rude, and almost everything else is as well. Colourful and inventive camera work captures the settings with intriguing little flourishes. And he knows enough not to get in the way of his two central actors, both of whom are clearly having a ball with these roles.

Brosnan has never looked quite so scruffy, and he plays Julian as a cocky flirt who's brazen and boorish one moment, sensitive and desperate the next. It's an odd balance that works well simply because Brosnan pours so much energy into it. We can't help but like him. And Kinnear is a perfect foil, especially as the two men become closer than either wants to admit. Meanwhile, Davis gives one of her most hilarious supporting roles yet as Danny's mischievous wife.

The intriguing dynamic between these characters gives the film an extra appeal beyond the zany rollercoaster plot or the genuinely funny banter. Julian clearly longs to be an ordinary guy like Danny, who obviously wants some excitement in his life. And both seem terrified to make a change. So it's a pity that the plot itself never really shifts into full speed for the finale. Rather, it becomes even more ludicrous, absurdly trying to wrench laughter from murder and then resorting to corny speeches to add random meaning. But it's still a thoroughly charming, entertaining romp.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 1.Nov.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall