Matador (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Lisa Henshall

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Scott

Director: Richard Shepard

As deliciously refreshing as a margarita, this movie is close to perfection!!

Until now, the only contender for the title of the funniest, cleverest, coolest movie about a hit man-in-crisis was the utterly brilliant GROSSE POINTE BLANK and at no stage did I ever imagine that anyone else could come close to that title, let alone the former Mr James Bond.

Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) is a moustached, sleazy hit man who, despite aspirations of living the playboy lifestyle, is hit by a wave of melancholy on his birthday when he realises his nomadic existence has left him with no one to call ‘friend’.

In a stifling Mexico City, having finished his ‘assignment’ early, he strikes up a conversation in the hotel bar with Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a likeable and friendly salesman who hopes he has finally struck lucky with his latest venture. Julian’s brash confidence rubs off on Danny who discovers a new found optimism and in turn Danny’s kind and thoughtful nature forces Julian to re-evaluate his own, rather shallow, life. But change isn’t always a good thing and for someone who relies on having the edge over his ‘targets’ it’s not the ideal situation when Julian starts to go into meltdown.

With an eminently quotable script, writer and director Richard Shepard really has struck gold with this killer comedy – “I can’t believe I’m standing in a stairwell trying to convince you to assassinate somebody!”

There are great performances all round with Brosnan burying any thoughts you might have that he can’t parody himself, and Kinnear never allows Danny’s niceness to become insipid. The duo’s on-screen chemistry sparkles like comedy electricity – every single scene is memorable – and even the supporting roles are well rounded and feel three-dimensional – with Hope Davis playing Danny’s equally sweet-natured wife and Philip Baker Hall as Julian’s gruff but adroit handler, Mr Randy.

Topping things off, there’s brilliant cinematography from David Tattersall (DOP on the recent STAR WARS prequels) and a wonderfully quirky soundtrack to keep the action at a cracking pace – The Jam’s ‘A Town Called Malice’, mixing in a little Tom Jones, Asia, The Cramps, The Killers and finishing with a punch on ‘El Matador’ by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (which also appears on the soundtrack of that other hit man-in-crisis movie I mentioned).

This is the kind of film that will have you quoting lines to complete strangers for weeks to come – miss it at your peril…

“Just consider me the best cocktail party story you ever met!”

6 out of 6 stars