|Looking particularly frazzled and overworked, it's possible Pierce Brosnan took the role of harried contract killer "Julian Noble" because he wanted to distance himself from the well-coiffed persona of James Bond, a character which has overshadowed most of his other performances in the past decade. Noble is nothing like the suave martini-drinking super spy (he prefers margaritas, actually) and is usually to be found on a barstool during the hours immediately after or before a "hit."|
Co-starring in a role not so different from his usual performances, Greg Kinnear lends his talents to the role of "Danny Wright," a down-on-his luck husband who just can't catch a break in his business. While Kinnear's performance seems entirely suitable for the picture, it is Brosnan's performance which will carry viewers to the finish line. But it's not simply that he's playing such an odd character that will make people take notice of his performance.
It's the character's departure from reality combined with an odd charm Brosnan's able to exhibit that almost endears him to the audience even though the line of work he's in is clearly illegal and rather evil. And this appeal exists despite the fact that one of the first things the audience sees Julian Noble do is paint his toenails with nail polish. And even though Noble claims a girl in every port, drinks far too heavily for his health, and makes his living by killing people, you still care about the guy when it seems he's headed for an emotional jump off a bridge.
The creators of this film seem to have put an awful lot of emphasis on creating Brosnan's stand-out character to occupy the vivid Mexico City location, but beyond his entertaining display of slight insanity, the most interesting aspect of the film just might be the set decoration. The idea of a hit man reaching the end of his rope and the fact that the hit man is played by an actor who once portrayed James Bond is a good chunk of the reason why this film is worth a view, but it bears mentioning that Pierce Brosnan just might be the only reason to see it.
It's not that the story isn't interesting - it's just that the plot throws the bulk of its weight in Brosnan's lap. And it's not that the characters that surround Brosnan aren't well planned - it's just that those characters seem to exist as nothing more than story-support for Brosnan's character. He's rather like Atlas in this film, existing as the sole support for the audience's interest. But viewers need not be a prior fan of Brosnan to find themselves interested in his story. In fact, Brosnan just might find a few new fans with this colorful performance.
And on the subject of color, the set decoration and design of the film is actually the second most noticeable aspect of the film. Whether the filmmakers were lucky enough to find a pre-existing hotel designed with such a wild array of colors or whether they created the location during the production is unknown, but the odd combination of sixties era architecture combined with the large, bright blocks of color that bathe most of the walls really showcase the Mexico City location. A little bit classical and a little bit historic, the film benefits from its local Latin American crew.
But with very few characters, focusing on just a few specific incidents (each scene seems to be of abnormally long length, but perhaps that's just due to the small number of characters?), there is a very sharp focus pulled on lead actor Brosnan and his two main co-stars, Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis (who is lovely yet strong as Kinnear's wife and probably gives the film more value than Kinnear even though her character is not as important). The Matador very succinctly falls under the heading of "quirky," though that word is seemingly draped on any number of genres these days. While the film's overall impact isn't as strong or tension-filled as it should be, Brosnan makes quite the case for a one-man show.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.