The Matador

on December 30, 2005 by Francesca Dinglasan
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Surpassing its superficial appearance as another one of Hollywood's typical odd-couple style buddy flicks, "The Matador" manages to transcend the cliches of its basic plotline on the strength of the character-acting so richly developed by the film's two stars.

Danny (Greg Kinnear) is a straight-laced traveling salesman whose last hope for financial security rests on closing a big deal in Mexico City. While trying to unwind in a hotel bar, he meets Julian (Pierce Brosnan), a quirky fellow foreigner who quickly becomes emotionally attached to Danny. Danny initially is scared off by Julian's brashness and odd tendencies, but is eventually won over by his sincere efforts to develop a friendship. Among Julian's gestures is to invite Danny to a bullfight, where--inspired by the bravado of the sport and the spirit of male bonding--Julian reveals to Danny that he is a "facilitator of fatalities." Danny is simultaneously frightened and fascinated, eventually returning home to his wife (Hope Davis) and everyday life in Denver, figuring his Mexico City adventure to be nothing more now than an amusing anecdote. This changes, however, when months later, Julian shows up on Danny's doorstep. Having botched a job because of panic attacks, Julian has become a liability to his superiors and is himself the target of a hit. Finding himself vulnerable and hunted, Julian turns to Danny, who he calls his "only friend in the world."

Incorporating exotic locales and fast-paced action sequences, "The Matador" plays off of Brosnan's James Bond persona to clever ironic effect. Fearless of looking absolutely ridiculous, Brosnan has traded in Bond's designer tuxedos for a Speedo and cowboy boots, perfectly embodying his hitman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. As the levelheaded businessman with emotional issues of his own, Kinnear's Danny complements Brosnan's eccentricity. Despite the film's tendency to veer in different directions--from physical comedy to serious drama to action caper--it is Kinnear's and, most especially Brosnan's, ability to showcase the complexities of the human psyche that keeps "The Matador" worthwhile. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis and Phillip Baker Hall. Directed and written by Richard Shepard. Produced by Pierce Brosnan, Beau St. Clair, Sean Furst and Bryan Furst. A Weinstein Co. release. Thriller/Comedy. Rated R for strong sexual content and language. Running time: 97 min

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