With the comedic buddy movie’s gas tank having run empty sometime around 1988’s Midnight Run, it’s hardly shocking to find that The Matador—a painful morass of Odd Couple bickering and Elmore Leonard-style criminal kookiness—is less lively than a speared bovine at the end of a bullfight. Richard Shepard’s indie arrives on a current of Sundance buzz that nonetheless can’t help drown out the groans elicited by this self-consciously “edgy” caper, which follows the complications that ensue after fate pairs a burned-out hitman with a traveling salesman in Mexico City. Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) is a foul-mouthed, murderous sleazeball with a taste for the bottle and kinky sex, a sort-of bad-boy anti-Bond we’re meant to find charmingly unsavory because his flippant attitude toward death masks a sad, lonely heart. His chance encounter with down-on-his-luck businessman Danny (Greg Kinnear) sets in motion a course of events destined to end with revelation and redemption, but there’s no salvation from the script’s use of profanity as a hipster calling card—after the second time Brosnan says something wildly inappropriate (like “All blushy blushy, no sucky fucky” to describe young Catholic schoolgirls), the jig is up—nor from Shepard’s employment of vivid primary red and yellow signifiers (the colors of a bullfighter’s cape). Eager to shed his dapper 007 persona, a mustachioed Brosnan struts about like the cock of the walk, his hair grayed at the temples and his shirt’s top button open to reveal his manly chest hair and gaudy gold chain. Yet the actor’s performance is a model of superficial showing off in which flailing about like a sloshed, hyperactive, frazzled lunatic is meant to approximate some kind of “Freudian meltdown” or spiritual crisis, which in turn makes it the ideal foil for Kinnear’s exasperatingly unfunny embodiment of straight-and-narrow propriety. Squandering Hope Davis (as Kinnear’s wife), Philip Baker Hall, and Dylan Baker, The Matador is the type of ineffective third-rate con job that, unable to engage its audience in any meaningful manner, instead simply turns the volume way up for explosions in order to elicit an audience’s jolted reaction. When Julian cries out “I’m a wreck…I’m a parody!,” he may as well be speaking for the film itself.
- Richard Shepard
- Richard Shepard
- Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Scott, Dylan Baker
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