The Matador Movie Review
The plot sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: A hit man with some time to kill between jobs strikes up a meaningless conversation with a tourist sitting near him at a Mexico City hotel bar. The characters come from different walks of life, but manage to find a connection that we as an audience can invest in.
Julian (Pierce Brosnan) is a sleaze on the verge of retirement in a line of work where your pension plan consists of a bullet to the head. The older he gets, the duller his lethal skills become. Danny (Greg Kinnear), on the other hand, is an unsuccessful businessman defined by his two-car garage, high-school sweetheart (a great Hope Davis), and dead-end career. He's trying to close a deal that could finally pull him from a personal rut, but his business trip isn't going well. The two men meet in Mexico, swap war stories, and engage in minor mental tests of trust and camaraderie. When their interaction reaches a pivotal stage, Matador fades to black. We catch up with the men months later and spend the rest of the picture filling in gaps as the two complete unfinished business.
Writer/director Richard Shepard's experience to date has been limited to the thriller genre. His 2001 film Mexico City tracked a woman searching for her missing brother, while 1999's Oxygen cast Maura Tierney as a tough-as-nails cop pursuing a kidnapper (Adrien Brody). The director lightens his mood considerably for Matador, which is told with kinetic flair and a go-for-broke style that's more amusing than engrossing. His vivid color scheme commands our attention, even as Brosnan spins and flails with calculated composure. Shepard maintains a cracking grip on the action, flashing bold cards across the screen to announce location shifts and making good use of anthem-rock tunes to bolster the film's playful atmosphere.
The interplay shared between Brosnan and Kinnear is bankable. Both actors propel us through the hoops of a traditional on-screen couple that happens to love what they see in each other - Danny sees courage in Julian, while Julian sees stability in Danny. Kinnear excels as the likable hero, the innocent protagonist with untapped potential for deceit. Davis is great as his life partner who doesn't back down when Julian tries to muscle between the two.
Like a magician pulling a sleight-of-hand trick, Brosnan once again pulls the wool over our eyes by delivering yet another spin on his cool-as-ice killer. From as far back as Remington Steele through the very recent After the Sunset, Brosnan lulls you into assuming he can sleepwalk through these caricatures, yet he seems to be having a blast with Julian, splurging on a carefree and unpredictable performance that gives Matador a live-wire jolt. As long as Brosnan continues to shake (and not stir) his perceived on-screen persona, the best thing he could do at this stage in the game is leave the tired Bond franchise behind.
Never read the reviews, Pierce.