Pearce Brosnan is an anti-Bond. A killer with a crisis of conscience. A former suave spy who’s losing his velvet touch, and is sliding into drunken stupor. This movie was sold to us as the first big acting change for Brosnan. He mocks the famous Bond persona, ditches the class and becomes an antihero. Yes, The Matador is that kind of movie, but it’s not the first time Pierce got drunk and stinky on screen. That’s an outright lie, designed to lure people into theaters. Those with a bit of memory will recall The Taylor of Panama – the first departure for Brosnan – a delicious spy caper, with a despicable anti-hero. Great movie, with great political themes. Check it out sometime – Geoffrey Rush is amazing, as always, and the tone of the film is so great.
The Matador does allow Brosnan to take that role even further. More drinking, more unexpected sincerities, and more dead-on revelations about the person, and the role. He plays a washed up mercenary killer. Going from assignment to assignment, without any satisfaction, without any joy, and even beginning to slip a little. If you can imagine a heartless killer who’s beginning to think about changing his career in mid-life – that’s The Matador. There’s something adorable about a guy who can load himself with margaritas, half-crawl from the bar stand, almost miss a door, and still want to take on the world. Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones would play a drunk differently, quietly, sadly. Brosnan’s drunk is more human than his “daylight” form – which makes the persona even more appealing.
Add to that a salesman, who’s in Mexico to close a big deal, and get a long-needed financial security – Greg Kinnear. He’s tense, stressed out, but he’s also honest and upbeat. The two hook up and start swapping life wisdom. In drunken stupor. When Greg’s business deal fall through, and Pierce’s target of the day escapes, the stakes go up for both of them. Thus, they form an unlikely, uncomfortable partnership.
This may sound like an old formula, but it’s given a lot of humanity. Both men have families, both men have dreams, and fears – and the movie exploits all. It’s not a cold-hearted action flick, nor is it a mid-life drama. Something in between, with Mexican flavour thrown in. Philip Baker Hall steals a few scenes as Brosnan’s point man – he brings targets, exchanges more life wisdom, threatens retaliation when Brosnan fails – all the usual stuff, except it’s Baker Hall – his body language is hilarious and every line is full of character. Same for Hope Davis – Kinnear’s wife. You’d think she’s be suspicious of a friendship with an assassin. Instead, she’s fascinated by the trade, wants to learn the secrets, eagerly wants to help out. This is like a small play that keeps surprising you by it’s rounded characters, and back stories.
The the film is over, you walk out and wonder why can’t this be a franchise. There are more stories to be told, more targets, and more business trips to Mexico. Who knows what adventures an aging salesman and killer for hire would face. They bring so much into these simple roles, you’d want to follow their travels for months. The Matador is a dark horse, delivering a great story, amazing action pieces and wonderful, memorable characters in a genre that’s full of formula. Check it out, and don’t forget about The Taylor of Panama. Be it mojitos, margaritas or tequilas, Pierce Brosnan makes drinking so cool, it’s endearing.