Director: Richard Shepard
Writer: Richard Shepard
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Israel Tellez
A fun romantic comedy between about two men falling in love, one of whom happens to be a hitman who is finds his ability to kill failing him at critical times. Also, there are random shots of a matador inserted for no apparent reason other than to justify the title.
Aging hitman Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) is starting to lose his nerve when it comes to doing his job. He hides it well enough, but there are times, such as when he sashes through a hotel lobby wearing nothing but a tight pair of speedos, when it becomes painfully clear that he is losing his mind. Then he meets Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) and the two have a brief fling before Julian is forced back into doing his job. When Julian fails to kill a critical target, his life is put in danger from his employeers and thus he turns to Danny and his wife Bean (Hope Davis), hoping that the sparks the two shared for each other will be enough to get him out his predicament.
Most of the humor in The Matador is low key but generally effective. Brosnan and Kinnear display a fair amount of chemistry with each other as their characters flirt with each other in a hotel bar and bond over drinks. This is their meet cute scene. Eventually the two go on a date where Julian shows Danny the best method for killing a person. Also, it happens to be at a bullfighting tournament where we get the aforementioned shots of a matador and bull fighting. Before the two had met, Julian had been trying to deal with his issues by having empty sex with woman. It's only when he meets Danny that Julian opens up at all and is able to find any meaning to his life.
The first half of the film is better than the second, which is where the pacing starts to drag. In fact, I started to wonder if the project had originally been conceived of as a stage play, given the way the latter scenes focus increasingly on dialog and character over plot. There's a lengthy sequence which is set entirely in Danny and Beans' house and has the feel of a stage production due to the way it focuses entirely on dialog and character revelations, while the plot comes to a virtual standstill. The climax is equally low key and a few plot twists simply do not work in the context of the film due to them being poorly set up.
When The Matador was first released, it received favorable reviews but failed to find an audience. This is something of a shame although the film lacks the panache to go in for the killing blow that might have elevated it to a higher level. As it is, this is an enjoyable diversion but failed to become a classic for obvious reasons.
It would definitely be worth getting in a fight with a bull with only a flimsy cloth as your weapon in order to see The Matador.
3 out of 4 stars.
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