Login

The Matador Review

Image for The Matador

Freelance hit man Julian Noble (Brosnan) is past his best. He can still kill with efficient impunity, but there’s a great hollow at the centre of his life — human contact. When he meets travelling salesman Danny Wright (Kinnear), an ordinary Joe down on h

★★★★

He’s dabbed his toenails purple, told some snoopy kid where to get off and detonated a bomb under a Porsche, but it’s the moment when Pierce Brosnan’s fraying hit man, lubricated with Mexican beer, strolls through a hotel lobby that seals the deal. Not an unusual event, you might surmise. Many a Bond film has seen the actor swaggering through the world’s most polished foyers in bespoke threads. But never before has the 007-that-was done so sporting only a pair of unfortunate black Speedos, Village People facial hair and ankle-high winklepickers, his knobbly white knees and growing paunch there for all to take in and hoot at. This is an acting showcase determined to explode preconceptions, to dismantle an ordered past and reveal its star as an able-bodied and fully game comedian.

Not that Richard Shepard’s talky, loose-limbed movie is exactly a comedy. It’s a wiry, energetic, genre-cracking serving of pulp fiction, spiced with the jalapeno-kicks of Tarantino and Rodriguez and dedicated to the quirks and calamities of its characters. The writer-director is entranced by the curious dynamic, the unpredictable qualities of human connection, between this lairy, odd-jobbing assassin and Greg Kinnear’s uptight violet. As Brosnan cuts loose, leering, lying, and spilling about on the wrong side of best behaviour, Kinnear skilfully reels it all in, a mild-mannered dope lured way out of his comfort zone.

There is just the scent of threat to Noble’s intent, a slight Tom Ripley-ish warp to the encounter that staggers among the heated, grumbling streets of Mexico City. By the time Noble crashes Wright’s American home and draws his guileless wife (an ever-excellent Hope Davis) into his strident breakdown, you await the nasty shudder. No dice. Shepard concludes with a rather flat note, sapping the hilarious sprawl of their adventure of its creepy thrill, like a great gig that neglects the obligatory encore. Even so, all that’s gone before still brings the movie close enough to that great intangible — cool.

We’ve never seen Pierce Brosnan so liberated — he’s a man reborn, and for what The Matador may lack in rounded plotting, it makes up for in funny, spiky, idiosyncratic glee.