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The Matador (8/10)

by Tony Medley

This has nothing to do with bullfighting, although there are some bullfighting scenes in the movie. Itís about a troubled hit man, Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) who meets a businessman, Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), while on a job in Mexico City. Hit men are sociopaths. Sociopaths do not have normal human emotions. So, straining credulity, Julian is in need of a friend and some TLC and Danny provides it, innocently at first, but thenÖ

Writer-director Richard Shepard has taken a different, comedic look at the hit man genre and come up with a captivating comedy. Brosnan gives the best performance of his career. Let me stop there because that could be damning with faint praise, since Brosnan really hasnít set the world on fire, even with his James Bond, which disappointed me. In this, however, Brosnan gives one of the better performances Iíve seen this year as the drunken, neurotic Julian. Kinnear, for his part, plays the part of Danny, riposting to Julianís manic behavior deftly.

Kinnear is a true comic genius. Even though, as I recall, he was the only one not nominated for an Academy Award in ďAs Good As It GetsĒ (1997), I thought he stole the picture. Heís just as good here playing off Brosnan.

But itís Brosnan upon whom the film rises or falls. And he is far better than one would imagine. Unfortunately, it crashes at the 70 minute mark of this 95 minute film, in a scene in which Julian bonds with Danny and his wife Carolyn ďBeanĒ Wright (Hope Davis), which goes on and on and on. I actually nodded off it was so slow and uninvolving. Fortunately it was for only a moment and I came to in time to see the end of the scene. The scene had to be slow because up until that point, the film had grabbed me, mainly because of Brosnanís over the top performance and Kinnearís perplexity in dealing with him. Fortunately as soon as the bonding scene ends, the film picks up where it left off and continues on to a well-paced ending. If the purpose of movie making is entertainment, this is one of the best of the year.

December 7, 2005