Written & Directed by Richard Shepard
Cinematography by David Tattersall
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis
The Matador, the latest film from writer/director Richard Shepard, may be the most intriguing comedy of the holiday season. With a limited but incredibly competent cast, The Matador draws you in with both humorous stints of dialogue and a side of Pierce Brosnan you’ve never seen before.
The Matador, which was the closing film at the Second Annual Bahamas International Film Festival, follows Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan), a 22-year veteran hitman with more than a few screws loose. He paints his toenails. He strolls through a hotel lobby, dressed in only a black Speedo and zip-up leather boots while holding a beer. He’s an alcoholic with a taste for bad jokes and young girls. Brosnan brings a surprisingly believable quirkiness to his character, the polar opposite to the James Bond role he’s famous for playing.
Julian meets Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in a bar while both are visiting Mexico City on business. Julian is getting drunk after a successful hit and secretly celebrating his birthday. Danny, an honest traveling salesmen, is tossing back margaritas after a successful meeting with, what he believes to be, clients. Both are somewhat unsatisfied with their lives. Both are looking for a new direction. And both have no idea that the only thing missing in their life was each other’s companionship.
While watching a matador in Mexico City, Julian confesses his profession with ease and sincerity, a small hint of pride heard in his voice. “Some people need to be eliminated,” Julian almost shrugs, cigar in hand, his mind somewhere else. This sparks Danny’s interest, which soon enough turns into disinterest that leads to a six month hiatus between the two.
While on a job in Budapest, Julian finds himself unable to “eliminate” the target. He becomes an aging train wreck, his gray hair mangled, his attractive face sagging. Soon enough, Julian becomes the target and can turn to the only person left in his corner, the gentle Danny Wright with a knack to do what’s right, but a nagging sensation to help a friend.
The casting in The Matador is perfect, with each character giving a flawless performance as everyday people with a lot more than what meets the eye. Hope Davis (from American Splendor fame) gives a lovable performance as Kinnear’s affectionate and supporting wife, Bean, the only thing that seems to keep him moving. Three years prior, the Wright’s lost their son in a school bus accident. Soon after, Danny was laid off, forcing him to become a traveling salesman, a job he seems perfect for but unsatisfied with.
The Matador delivers on every aspect of filmmaking. The structure and writing of the film is as incredible as the performances given by the actors. The direction is sharp, the transitions are crisp and the title cards that bare the names of the cities in which Julian travels for “jobs” are in large font and take up the screen, which present a unique look for the usually simplistic titles.
The Matador flashes both signs of humor and sadness. The theatre exploded with laughter after priceless one-liners delivered by Brosnan while you could hear the echo of crunching popcorn as Kinnear explains how he lost his son. Overall, The Matador makes for exciting entertainment and proves to be one of the funniest (and no doubt quirkiest) performances of Brosnan’s career.
And to think, all he had to do was trade in a tux for a shade of dark metallic toenail polish.