Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Matador

Take James Bond. Give him a god-awful haircut. Allow the gray to show from his 50-plus years. Add a brush mustache. A bit of a paunch. Put all that together and you've got Pierce Brosnan as Julian Noble in The Matador.

But there's more to this characterization. He has a penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, a potty mouth in high definition. And you can see the frustration, the disgust, the burn-out on his face. You see, Julian is a hit man, has been for over 20 years. And he's tired. And all the margaritas and Thai girls in the world can't lift him out of it.

There are several marvelous scenes that show you just who Julian is. The first is when Julian strolls nonchalantly through the Mexico City hotel. The camera catches people staring in the lobby, and we finally realize that Julian is dressed in only a speedo and his boots, on his way to the hotel pool. He really doesn't care what they think, not one iota. It took some real guts for an actor, any actor, to do that scene.

A film that convinces you that Pierce Brosnan can really act, The Matador is really two acts about this hit man and how he got his one friend, a goody-goody salesman, Danny Wright, played in earnest by Greg Kinnear. Danny just landed a choice job and is celebrating when he meets Julian at the Mexico City bar. But Julian, as usual, says the wrong thing and puts him off. Julian keeps putting him off, but Danny is somehow attracted to this sad-sack, wondering what the hell he does for a living, and, once he learns, how someone can live like that.

I had to laugh out loud at the "Julianisms" in the film, like, "I'm as serious as an erection problem." And this piece of dialogue between Julian and Danny: "Come on! It'll be a good time!" Danny replies, "Oh, so now killing people is a good time?" Julian: "...Can be..."

Julian's "handler" gives him a little lecture when he sees him leering at the Mexican schoolgirls. The irony is not lost on us. But it is lost on Julian. This guy isn't sarcastic, or ironic. He simply is. What you see and hear is what you get. And Brosnan plays him perfectly.

You would think this would be more of an action film. It's rather an inaction film, and that may throw a few people off. And while there is a mystery or two left to solve at the end, there's no real mystery where we're headed. There's not even much to the killing part. It's actually kind of boring, and maybe that's the point. We don't even know who these people are, and neither does Julian. There's a fun scene where Julian shows Danny how he could set up someone at the bullfight to be murdered. "I'm a big fan of the 'Everybody's got to pee' theory of assassination," explains Julian, pointing to the men's toilet. It's funny, it's a bit tragic, but it's not terribly exciting.

Brosnan is a wonder, and Kinnear is more than just the optimistic American we first see. It's a shame the film can't take us in a different direction where one or more of the men changes or learns something about life, but it's good enough just to watch these two guys spar and somehow have a good time.

Thumb's up.


At 11:24 AM, Blogger catattack said...

From Toppsin50:
One point I'd like to make is, the "boring hits" gave the audience a sense of how burned out he was. He did not care about the people. There was no adventure in it. He wanted to stop. He was tired of being isolated, yet he could not get along appropriately in society. He was saved by his opposite. I loved the film as you know.


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