Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Matador (2005)

Fitfully entertaining dark comedy coasts mainly on the unexpectedly hilarious lead turn by Pierce Brosnan. He takes his natural suavity and turns it inside out, crafting a portrait of the globe-trotting assassin as a seedy, nonchalantly scabrous lecher. He's clearly relishing the opportunity to play against type, as the delirious vulgarity of the dialogue ("margaritas and cock") erupts from his mouth. The first half of the film, then, is a rude kick in the trousers; in this light, the more-conventional second half is a bit of a disappointment. A lot of themes are set up in the Mexico section of the film (most intriguingly, an undeniable queer subtext) that don't follow through into the latter portion of the narrative. The film still feels like a success, though, mainly because the push-pull tension between Brosnan and Greg Kinnear's straight-laced businessman is consistently engaging. The second half does also allow Hope Davis to cut loose as Kinnear's surprisingly quirky wife, and the climax shows each man doing his best to help the other preserve his place in the world. (Maybe the queer subtext is there after all.)

Grade: B


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