Rated R; Directed by Richard Shepard; Starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis
So let’s say that your career of playing James Bond is coming to an end. What kind of role would you take on next? Another witty super-spy? A dashing romantic hero? Or would you take a chance on playing a crude hitman coming down with a nasty case of the nervous breakdowns? Well, Pierce Brosnan bravely and superbly goes for that last option.
Don’t let the title fool you; The Matador isn’t about a charming bullfighter, it’s a funny buddy movie about a loser of a hired killer who befriends a loser of a businessman. Greg Kinnear plays Danny Wright, the loser of a businessman trying to close an important business deal in Mexico. He meets Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) at the hotel bar and they strike up a conversation. After some initial discomfort the two share some of their emotional secrets. This leads to a bumpy companionship while they are in Mexico. When Danny learns of Julian’s profession, he’s fascinated. They part ways, but one day Julian shows up on Danny’s doorstep asking for a favor.
The fun in this movie comes from the unexpected. Danny reaction’s to Julian’s line of work isn’t horror, but an awed amazement. A scene at a bullfight as Julian demonstrates how he would go about the job of assassinating someone is wonderfully done. The later scenes in Danny’s home also offers surprises.
It helps that director Richard Shepard has such a good cast. Brosnan takes Julian’s character to a wild and over-the-top place that works so well with Kinnear’s more down to earth role. The two look like they are having way too much fun. Hope Davis as Danny’s wife, Bean, proves once again, that she’s one of the best actresses out there. Her surprising request when meeting Julian for the first time is to see his gun. What a wife for Danny! The three stars together are just great. Kinnear’s ability to play the average guy is a winner in this movie. Still, it’s Pierce Brosnan as Julian that makes “The Matador” so fun. He shakes off the wit and urbanity of James Bond to play a man who is losing his nerve and has nowhere to turn.
Writer and director Richard Shepard creates interesting and sympathetic characters – yes, even Julian is sympathetic…at times. The story is rather slight and goes for the emotional heartstrings at the end, but as the resolution is satisfying it is allowable.
The Matador is a quirky, funny, and pleasurable film. Watch it for the performances. You will find yourself drawn into the story, but the real fun is in watching Brosnan, Kinnear, and Davis. Who needs James Bond anyway?