In The Matador Pierce is back doing just that, aging, capering and committing crimes just like we've seen him do over and over in recent history. Here, however, he's upped the ante on immaturity seeming to attempt to out-infantile himself at every turn. He even manages to out-infantile an actual child in the opening scene by responding to "See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!" with "Smell ya, shouldn't have to tell ya!". I had to take a lot of antacid after that line to stay in my chair. It worked though, and I can postpone that ulcer surgery until After the Sunset II: The Armageddon comes out!
Therein lies the problem of The Matador. It's really not such a bad film, and manages to be both interesting and funny at times, but gets far too bogged down by its idiotic side to truly be a film for grown-ups. On the flip side, this is the story of a man having a crisis of maturity, so... how else are you going to do it? Conundrum? Perhaps. But imagine mine when having to review this thing.
Brosnan brings us highly paid corporate hitman Julian Noble, a man with the approximate paper trail of Serenity's "The Operative". He's got no home, no permanent address, no possessions that can't be moved on the fly, no family, no wife and no friends. That last one sets things in motion quite nicely right about the time that Noble's handler Mr. Randy (Philip Baker Hall) reminds him that it's his birthday on a seemingly routine job down in Mexico City. This hard-nosed assassin turns into the weepy, drunken crybaby, who just happens to come across a sympathetic ear in his hotel Cantina. Because that ear is attached to Greg Kinnear should give you an idea which screwball direction this is going in. Kinnear's American Businessman Danny Wright is at his wit's end with life, the universe and everything, and has one chance left at success before he, his wife and the ghost of his son lose it all. Might I say he'd need a friend too, might I add... not this one, man!
Needless to say, this is the friend he gets, and writer/ director Richard Shepard inexorably links these guys during their chance encounter in Mexico, especially during a confession-laded Bullfighting Match that draws a tired and obvious parallel between the bull fighter (assumed here to be an "artist") and the hitman, both of whom respect their quarry. As this set-up continues, Shepard seems intent on proving that the two asses in "assassin" are Brosnan and Kinnear. Both do a fine job of acting, but both seem to be in a competition for Mexico's Silliest visitor.
The film gets quite interesting toward the middle as the "Noble" savage's mid-life crisis comes to a head, full steam. Not having a home or a family, Julian runs back to the only "friend" he ever had. That being Ol' Danny Boy himself! The dialogue that explores the dichotomy of the sensitive killer, especially when shared with Danny and his wife "Bean" (Hope Davis). The premise in and of itself is pretty compelling, but coupled with the acting and writing, it maintains one's interest.
Sadly, it doesn't continue, and we're soon brought back to the grown men acting like goof-balls antics of an unbelievably unrealistic final act featuring yet another caper superimposed against the anniversary of Danny and Bean's son's death. While the dialogue is still pretty well done, it's hard to imagine anything of this sort really working, and it pretty much doesn't. It's the fruition of promise from the first act that keeps the audience's attention, and yes, there is quite a payoff there, worthy of the relative complexities of Brosnan's character. The fact that this surprise works so well makes one wonder why the rest of it falls so flat, and so many loose logic ends are left frayed as the credits bloom into one's face.
This isn't a "bad" movie, though, and when a silly, occasionally infantile adventure is what you're in the mood for, this is the one to bull’s-eye. Be warned, The Matador is never quite as funny as it thinks it's being, it's never quite as poignant as it thinks it is and it's never quite as touching as it could have been. But suck, it does not. Three Mexicali Stars out of Five for The Matador, the silly movie that could. This is a good one for Kinnear fans, and fans of Richard Shepard alike. If you're still a Brosnan fan after all his hits and misses (and, yeah, yeah, yeah, I still am), you're sure to find something to love about him here. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go put on my protestin' hat and make some signs. After the detailed and graphic depiction of bull mutilation in this flick, it's time for a demonstration against Bull Fighting with all my Vegetarian friends. Oh, wait... I don't have any friends... man... Lonely birthday for me. Well, screw it then, let them have their matadors and let them call bull slaughter an "art". It can't be worse than what I've done to the "art" of writing anyway, can it? See you in the next reel.
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