Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Well would you look at Bond over there.  Pierce Brosnan, apparently attempting to get as far away from the Bond role he relinquished a little while ago branches out a bit as neurotic hitman Julian Noble in ‘The Matador’, and for the most part, he succeeds.

Greg Kinnear is Danny White who is down in Mexico to close a business deal he desperately needs to stay afloat and hopefully end a streak of incredible bad luck.  He makes the acquaintance of Julian while sipping margarita’s at the hotel bar, and though the two men hit it off, Julian ends up insulting Danny greatly, forcing Danny to keep his distance.  Julian has attachment issues as well, a large host of other emotional problems, and as Danny has found out, no friends to speak of.  Due to a snafu in Danny’s deal negotiations, he is forced to stay in Mexico longer than planned, giving Julian the opportunity to make up for his boorish behavior and confiding in Danny about his life and lifestyle.

Here is where ‘The Matador’ is at its absolute best. Bronson and Kinnear are a couple of easy going breezy actors completely comfortable in the skins of both of these characters.  They bounce off each other effortlessly, and their characters forge a strange, solid but believable bond that carries the movie through to the end.  Bronson in particular is a revelation as he gives best performance since, well, forever (Sorry Remington Steele fans).  Julian is the anti-Bond, garish in dress, completely unsure of himself, neurotic.  The only thing he and Bond have in common is that they both treat women as holes with heartbeats.  There is a scene with Danny and Julian at a bullfight where Julian gives Danny a breakdown of how exactly to execute a hit that crackles with energy, wit and originality.  The movie rates a recommendation based on this sequence alone.

If only the film could have sustain this same energy through the duration.  Whether Director - screenwriter Richard Shepard ran out of ideas or was aiming for a different kind of bent for his film, it seemed to lose its way.  Julian’s descent from the cold blooded, coolly efficient dispatcher of souls to a huddled up crying baby unable to pull the trigger, even with his life on the line just didn’t ring true and had too much of a madcap zany feel to it.  ‘The Matador’ regains its solid footing as Julian, months later, pops up the home of Danny and his wife Bean (Hope Davis) as the characters once again reconnect with the real dialogue and genuine affection that they seem to have for one another, but the ending left a little to be desired however.

As many good things that ‘The Matador’ had going for it, in the end it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, which is a shame, because though it’s still worth seeing, it looked like it could have been a great one.

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