The Matador

Now that Pierce Brosnan is free of the shackles of the James Bond character (by choice of not - who knows), he's free to be a bit more experimental in his choice of roles.  Supposedly, while he was Bond, there were restrictions on the other acting roles he could take, as not to potentially tarnish the Bond franchise.  It's hard to imagine them allowing him to play Julian Noble, a hit man going through a mid-life crisis in The Matador.  Think of Noble as what could happen to Bond after too many years of spying. It works for Brosnan (After the Sunset, Laws of Attraction) because of his history as Bond. It's an interesting effort from writer/director Richard Shepherd (Mexico City, Oxygen) that straddles drama, a bit of action, and even a bit of comedy.

The first half of The Matador takes place in Mexico City. Noble meets Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear, Bad News Bears, Robots), an ordinary guy from Detroit. Noble is in town for a hit, while Wright is there to try to win a business contract. The two begin chatting in a bar, which is a profound experience for Noble. Noble has no friends. He has no permanent home, and does not associate with anybody. The fact that Wright took the time to talk to him touches him. Noble also has no social skills, and proceeds to insult and offend Wright, who was just being polite. As an act of contrition, Noble takes Wright to a bullfight the next day and tells Wright about his job, which has a profound effect on Wright.

These two men are opposites. Noble longs for regularity and someplace to call home. Wright wants some excitement and danger in his life. Shepherd moves the story six months later, when Noble unexpectedly shows up at Wright's house, much to the shock and chagrin of Wright and his wife Bean (Hope Davis, The Weather Man, Proof). Amusingly, Wright now has a moustache that looks like Noble's, and framed the ticket from the bullfight. Noble is having serious problems. He balks at crucial moments during his assignments, which could mean his target survives and he compromises himself. Wright is his only friend, so Noble tracks him down and asks for his help.

Noble is certainly a tough guy. He kills for a living. But once in Detroit, he whines, complains, and cries to Wright. They find their roles reversed, as Wright has to become the one to take charge. It's pretty pathetic, yet amusing at the same time. Again, Brosnan pulls it off because of the Bond role. Now, he's frumpy, drunk, and washed up. Yet, inexplicably, Wright still helps him. The Matador putts along in Detroit, and taking a pretty improbably turn. Luckily, Shepherd knows where he's going with his story, and ends on a very fascinating note that explains the bizarre friendship between the two men and adds a surprising sense of depth to the film.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content and language.

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