Tuesday, January 31, 2006

'Matador' and mayhem in Mexico

A hitman and a salesman walk into a bar...

Sounds like a bad joke. But it's the tagline (and the set up) for "The Matador," the hilarious, quirky new film from writer/director Richard Shepard.

Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) is the hitman. He is a sleaze. A louse. A jerk.

The first time we see him is the morning after a tryst with a hooker. He wakes up, looks around, and paints his toes black with her nail polish.

He's definitely a guy you don't want to be standing next to in, well, a bar. But that is where Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) finds himself one afternoon in Mexico City. Danny thinks he's just closed a deal that will put him back in the black. He's celebrating. Julian's boorishness almost runs him off.

But they start talking. They strike up something like a friendship south of the border. They go to a bullfight. And then Danny finds out what Julian does for a living.

Six months later, Julian finds himself unable to continue in his unique profession. He's seeing himself as a young boy when he aims at his targets. So he goes searching for his only friend. He finds Danny and his wife, Bean (a hilariously quirky Hope Davis), in Denver. And he knocks on their door at Christmas with one last request...

Brosnan's first movie following his well publicized split from the James Bond series is a tour-de-farce. Julian may be killing people, but it's sure not for the British government. And while he has a certain charm, it isn't the polished sophistication of 007.

Shepard, who also wrote the screenplay, delivers a funny, if raunchy, film. You laugh out loud a few times. You wince. You have a good time.

Having caught a couple of interviews and reviews for the film, I was expecting an offbeat, artsy type entry. And it is some of that, but is delightfully accessible and quite funny. Audiences used to seeing Brosnan in a tux drinking a martini every two or three years will be in for a shock.

But it's a good jolt. This is the best character part of Brosnan's career.

I have no idea what bad stuff Shepard inhaled to come up with this outlandish idea for a movie. But I wish he'd send whatever it was to other moviemakers.

"The Matador" is rated R for adult language and strong sexual content. This movie IS NOT suitable for children and those with prudish sensibilities.

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