The Matador (2005) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Dylan Baker, Adam Scott
Director: Richard Shepard
Screenplay: Richard Shepard
The Matador is a refreshing, irreverent comedy that easily goes down as one of the best comedies of 2005. At its heart, it is a buddy formula flick, although it never truly adheres to conventions, as it goes down familiar roads in its own unique way. Bolstered by a terrific performance by Pierce Brosnan (After the Sunset, Laws of Attraction), perhaps his best in a feature film to date, this is a wholly likeable dark comedy full of quirky but well-rounded characters and little touches in the character development that sets it apart from other films of a similar nature.
Brosnan stars as Julian Noble, one of the world's most efficient assassins for hire, doing gigs for high prices for rich clients. His latest job is in Mexico, and during his stay there he meets and befriends a down-and-out American businessman named Danny Wright (Kinnear, Stuck on You), who is there trying to nail down a deal that will put him back on track to be a successful salesman again. The budding friendship is on shaky ground as it is, thanks to Noble's uncouth demeanor, but things really take a new twist once Julian reveals that he is an assassin by trade.
Although Brosnan will get the lion's share of the accolades for this film's success, and deservedly so, it should be mentioned that equally up to the task is writer-director Richard Shepard, easily his best, getting the most out of his appealing actors and telling his story with just the right amount of mystery, color, and panache.
Although there are serious implications in the nature of Julian's business, and some ramifications that don't bode well in his favor, Shepard deftly is able to keep the proper tone throughout the film, which is light, mirthful, and spirited. He wisely keeps most of the violence off-screen so that we don't too caught up in the reality of what it is that he does.
The Matador is a wicked, smart and funny comedy worth seeing for adults in the mood for a fun time. If this were to turn into a franchise, not unlike the Bond films that Brosnan was such a big part of, I would not mind one bit.
©2006 Vince Leo