TWO THUMBS UP!
When I saw THE MATADOR at Sundance a year ago, I walked in expecting a routine action picture, but Sundance had a reason for inviting this film. It’s quirky and original, and has what may be Pierce Brosnan’s best performance. He plays an over-the-hill hit man in Mexico City who meets an American businessman played by Greg Kinnear. The younger guy is absolutely fascinated to find out that Brosnan kills for a living – although he is trying to go into retirement. THE MATADOR starts with stock characters and makes them original and quirky. And Brosnan not only plays against the James Bond stereotype but he buries it. Thumbs up.
– Roger Ebert, Ebert & Roeper
Big thumbs up from me as well. You’re so right about Pierce Brosnan; in fact he’s not going to play James Bond anymore. I wouldn’t mind seeing this character in either a prequel or a sequel, because he’s so fascinating. He’s actually very funny. He’s got some scenes where he’s got these quick exchanges of dialogue with people that are just hilarious and I love the little touches like Greg Kinnear, six months later he’s got a mustache now too, like the hitman himself. And he’s got the framed program from the bullfight. All of those little touches. And then there’s kind of a little twist and then there’s a twist on the twist at one point and I thought those were perfect as well. Really, really strong film.
– Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper
IF PIERCE BROSNAN CAN BE AS ROARINGLY FIERCE AND FUNNY AS HE IS AS JULIAN NOBLE, A HIT MAN SUFFERING A MELTDOWN, THEN WHO NEEDS JAMES BOND? Writer-director Richard Shepard gives Brosnan his meatiest role ever, and he digs in with relish. The sight of a drunken Brosnan walking through a hotel lobby in nothing but cowboy boots and Speedos is time-capsule-worthy. Julian meets Denver exec Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) at a bar in Mexico City, a place where Julian insists the margaritas taste best — and also the cock. The gay joke flips out Danny, but the two become friends — an odd coupling that lets Brosnan and Kinnear lob comic fastballs. But Julian is falling apart. This top “facilitator of fatalities” can’t squeeze the trigger. How Danny, with a wife (Hope Davis) back home, manages to figure in Julian’s rehab as a killer is a surprise no review should reveal. Just sit back and enjoy the fun.
– Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
A SPIFFY THRILLER – PIERCE BROSNAN IS SMASHING
Pierce Brosnan, taking on a role that offers a flipside to his 007, is smashing as a hilariously foul-mouthed, promiscuous, alcoholic hit man who is coming apart at the seams. He meets a nice guy businessman (Greg Kinnear) in a Mexico City hotel bar in this spiffy thriller and the two become unlikely pals. There are deft twists aplenty here, plus the great Hope Davis in a daffy turn as Kinnear’s loving, libidinous wife.
– Leah Rozen, People Magazine
***1/2 out of 4 stars
Pierce Brosnan is the anti-Bond in THE MATADOR. And though he’s anything but suave, sophisticated or debonair, he’s a joy to behold. Decent guy (Greg Kinnear) meets hit man (Pierce Brosnan) in the witty dark comedy THE MATADOR. Brosnan plays a sleazy “facilitator of fatalities” with a remarkable lack of vanity in this clever dark comedy. He thinks nothing of striding through a swanky hotel lobby, looking worn and flabby in black Speedos and old boots, a cigarette dangling from his lips, clutching a can of beer. His name is Julian Noble, an ironic moniker for such a lowlife. But he learns about nobility, or at least humanity, when he meets Danny, a good-natured everyman who is down on his luck, played engagingly by Greg Kinnear. Danny, who is grieving over his son’s death, is staying at the same Mexico City hotel as Julian, struggling to strike a deal that could turn his fortunes around. Julian is there on what he calls “an anonymous, high-paying corporate gig.” What sells this movie is how winningly Brosnan and Kinnear play off each other. Both have never been funnier. Julian tells Danny: “You’re the exact opposite of me.” And that may be the secret to the gravitational pull between these characters. Writer/director Richard Shepard has fashioned a witty screenplay and well-drawn, compelling characters that feel plausible, despite the outlandish scenario. Julian is a drunken boor and foul-mouthed womanizer. He lacks compassion and alienates with his rude and outrageous behavior. He sports a tacky mustache, Eurotrash wardrobe and an arrogant swagger. Danny, by contrast, is a decent man who is head over heels for his wife of 14 years (Hope Davis in a lovely performance). He’s ethical, but not a goody-two-shoes. In his boyish exuberance, he is drawn to the brash Julian probably because he is his antithesis. But Julian is a hit man who is burned out and suffers panic attacks. That might have been a tired conceit (shades of Analyze This and The Sopranos without the shrinks), but it is helped immensely by the unlikely camaraderie in this quirky buddy film. Mexico City has never looked so vital and appealing. The locations — a bullfight, a plaza outside a cathedral, an outdoor cafe and an ultra-modern, vibrantly hued hotel — are the perfect backdrop to this offbeat friendship. (Shots of a matador taunting his bull juxtaposed with Julian stalking his prey are nicely inter-cut.) Julian may be unsavory, as he readily admits, but he has an oily charm. And, at heart, he’s a lonely, sad man. As uncensored as Julian is, Danny is the voice of sanity. The plot is a bit flimsy, but it’s the sharp banter and undeniable chemistry between Brosnan and Kinnear — and the redemption their characters offer each other — that make this movie so enjoyable.
– Claudia Puig, USA Today
*** out of 4 stars
Pierce Brosnan puts his James Bond persona through a helluva funhouse mirror to portay one superfreak of a hitman in writer/director Richard Shepard’s enjoyable shaggy-dog story which takes an almost indecent amount of pleasure in upending one’s expectations as to what a black comedy about an assassin for hire making an unlikely friendship with a regular guy should deliver. The fakeouts are fun: Greg Kinnear is a perfect foil as Brosnan swears, sweats, and stomps through a hotel lobby in a speedo and cowboy boots, making you wonder just what his character’s sexual orientation is, exactly. And Hope Davis is hilarious as Kinnear’s strangely giddy wife.
– Glenn Kenny, Premiere Magazine
A POIGNANT COMIC GEM
In THE MATADOR, a delightfully sly diversion, Pierce Brosnan breaks the mold and turns in what might be considered the performance of his career, the kind of witty, relaxed star portrayal that recalls those of Cary Grant and other Golden Era legends. Setting him up to perfection is Greg Kinnear, every bit as amusing and assured. As if this weren’t enough, Hope Davis, one of the most protean young actresses working in films, lends further sparkle and drollery. Richard Shepard exhibits that precious gift of being able to work in the mainstream yet maintain the utmost sophistication in his point of view and in dialogue that crackles with inspired wit and humor. Imagine that James Bond, the role from which Brosnan has just graduated, has begun to lose his nerve and started to go to seed. That’s a rough description of Brosnan’s Julian Noble, who has arrived in Mexico City for reasons not immediately clear. Unshaven and mustached, he’s raffish, with a roughneck quality, and given to knocking back quite a few drinks and smoking heavily. Attractively weathered, he knows full well he’s still devastatingly handsome, can turn on the charm like a faucet and has a gift of outrageous gab. Indeed, his mileage may actually heighten his appeal. His frayed-around-the-edges aura also bespeaks an undeniable vulnerability, even desperation and instability, as he determinedly latches on to Kinnear’s Danny Wright, a Denver businessman who has a lot riding on a pending deal. They cross paths in a Mexico City hotel bar, and Julian just won’t let go of Danny, even though Julian’s sudden outbursts of crudeness and insensitivity threaten to drive Danny away. But Julian’s persistence and innate charisma prevail with Danny, and pretty soon Julian, a crack marksman, reveals that he is on assignment as, he likes to call himself, a “facilitator of fatalities.” At first Danny is struck with disbelief, then horror. THE MATADOR in which a bullfight becomes a metaphor for Julian’s profession and his romantic view of it, deftly moves ahead six months. Now Julian is on a job in Budapest in what his controller, Mr. Randy (Philip Baker Hall), tough-minded yet compassionate, reminds him is a make-or-break situation, since Julian is clearly shaky after 22 years in the racket. A couple of plot developments later, Julian knocks on Danny’s front door late one snowy night. The stage is set for one final adventure for the two men.Julian offers Brosnan a great comic role with crucial dark undertones. An aging loner with no friends outside his brief acquaintance with Danny, Julian is a man who has no permanent address, has indulged in all the sex any man could possibly crave, but has never known love. By contrast, Danny and his wife are a couple whose deep love has been strengthened by tragedy and adversity, regular folks on the surface yet highly intelligent, humorous and open-minded. There is no question that Julian is a dangerous man, especially as he comes apart. Danny’s kindness and hospitality to Julian is undoubtedly an invitation to potential disaster, and at this point, suspense kicks in in earnest, along with the humor. Shepard, however, is a genuine high-wire artist, and although Julian may be losing his grip, THE MATADOR, which manages to be stylish without ever seeming slick, never does. It is contemporary in tone but has that combination of sentiment and worldliness of beloved Hollywood classics with their confident effortlessness and throwaway humor — Billy Wilder comes to mind. THE MATADOR is a late entry into the year-end sweepstakes, but now that hoopla surrounding the holiday blockbusters has peaked, audiences will have a better chance at not overlooking this poignant comic gem.
– Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
THE BEST PERFORMANCE PIERCE BROSNAN HAS EVER GIVEN
THE MATADOR springs a sunny surprise. It’s funny, quirky and sad, and wonderfully well acted. The Sundance audience walked out astonished. Writer/director Richard Shepard finds an eerie balance of the macabre, the delightful and the sentimental; the movie is so nimble it sometimes switches tones in the middle of a sentence. Everything centers on the best performance Pierce Brosnan has ever given. The direction, writing and acting elevate THE MATADOR into something very special. It’s SIDEWAYS with death instead of wine.
– Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times
A WELL MADE COMIC THRILLER
Pithy remarks put into the mouth of a star playing against type impart a greasy sheen of sophistication to THE MATADOR. The star is Pierce Brosnan, and his character, ironically named Julian Noble, is a gold-chain-wearing sleazeball with a taste for under-age girls. THE MATADOR is an odd-couple caper in which Mr. Brosnan’s jaded international man of mayhem befriends a squeaky-clean salesman from Denver after they meet cute in a Mexico City hotel bar. As they become better acquainted, each secretly longs to lead the other’s life. Danny Wright, Julian’s wide-eyed sidekick, is agreeably played by Greg Kinnear, wagging his bushy tail and radiating the ageless boyishness that makes him the Dick Clark of movie stars. Julian, who has been in the killing business for 22 years, has no friends, family or fixed address. Coming clean about his occupation, he coyly describes himself as “a facilitator of fatalities” and his assignments as “corporate gigs.” Challenged to prove he’s not kidding about what he does, Julian takes Danny to his first bullfight, at which Julian demonstrates his theory of assassinations. Hits carried out in public arenas, he explains, are best executed when a victim leaves his seat to go to the bathroom; after all, sooner or later, nature is bound to call. In the ring, a matador’s cool disposal of a charging bull in a single, clean thrust is offered as a sporting corollary to Julian’s lethal expertise. Mr. Brosnan, playing off his suave image, has a wonderful time faking it as a lowlife. Unlike 007′s dry martinis, shaken and stirred, however, Julian’s cocktail of choice is a margarita, usually guzzled. Julian can’t hold his liquor. So many margaritas are consumed during the movie that if THE MATADOR is a hit (and it could be a medium-size one), it might bring a spike in tequila sales. In the movie’s zaniest moment, Julian, this time with a beer in hand, lurches through a hotel lobby toward the swimming pool, wearing only cowboy boots and a black Speedo. Ms. Davis adds a zany twist to the movie as a comically oversexed spouse who is unabashedly titillated by their guest’s occupation. “Aren’t we cosmopolitan having a trained assassin stay overnight,” she chirps. Because THE MATADOR, written and directed by Richard Shepard, sustains a tone of screwball insouciance and keeps its trump card hidden up its sleeve, it must be counted as a well-made comic thriller.
– Stephen Holden, The New York Times
RIOTOUSLY FUNNY, SEXY AND VERY SLICKLY SHOT
THE MATADOR, written and directed by Richard Shepard, is one of the genuine surprises of the London Film Festival. It stars Pierce Brosnan as a bisexual, heavy drinking, vulgar, friendless hitman, Julian, who while on a job in Mexico, runs into the down-on-his-luck businessman, Danny (played by Greg Kinnear). The two form an unlikely, and unpredictable friendship. Both men are terrific, and Brosnan, indeed, is revelatory, but the film is all but stolen by the terrific Hope Davis as Danny’s wife. If there’s an actor or actress in Hollywood more adept at making something special out of nothing parts, then they’re unknown to me. In both this, and Proof, she has shown real star quality, and will surely garner an Oscar nomination for at least one of the roles. THE MATADOR is the best film that Brosnan has ever made, it’s riotously funny, sexy and very slickly shot. It’s a treat that has cult-hit written all over it.
– Alex Crawford, BBC
Alex Crawford’s Top 10 films of The Times bfi 49th London Film Festival:
Directed by Richard Shepard, this is a three hander of the very highest order. It’s a clever, outrageous crime comedy, with three tremendous turns by Pierce Brosnan (as a bisexual, womanising, alcoholic hitman), Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis (who play a married couple that Brosnan’s character befriends). There’s a whole heap of heart, but what will stick in your mind is the fabulous dialogue, the performances and the number of visual surprises, such as Brosnan dressed as a cheerleader and the actor walking through his hotel lobby in a pair of black underpants, ankle high cowboy boots and little else. Brilliant.
– Alex Crawford, BBC
THE MATADOR IS FUNNY, SHARP AND BURSTING WITH COMEDY
**** out of 5 stars
From Bond to bi, Pierce Brosnan ditches the martinis and beautiful women for a bushy upper lip and cheap prostitutes of any sex in THE MATADOR, a very different kind of assassin story. The result is outstanding; this is James Bond in a fit of depression. Brosnan is Julian Noble, a hired-gun whose conscience has finally caught up with him. When he bungles a job, and his employers won’t release him, he knows that he’s dead if he can’t complete the next with no problems. Enter Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), who strikes up an unusual friendship with the inept assassin at the hotel bar while they’re both in Mexico on business. As they drink themselves silly with Margherita after Margherita, Julian lets slip his profession and before long Danny’s fascinated to hear all about it. Pretty soon, Danny realises he’s in for more than he bargained. The comedy is top-notch and the performances to die for. Brosnan could be Billy Bob Thornton as Julian, finding that level of selfish indifference that could either be read as hilarious or offensive. Remaining forever on the line, Brosnan proves his comic potential is massive and Kinnear, in an odd reversal the straight man, bounces of him expertly. With Julian Noble Brosnan creates a character so unlike anything he’s done before that it’s a real breath of fresh air and, what’s more, he takes an essentially revolting villain and forces the audience to sympathise. It’s as though through his selfish lust for life, Julian is actually screaming at us all simply to like him. And we do; we love him in spite of himself. THE MATADOR is funny, sharp and bursting with comedy. If you see only one film in this festival, you’d do well to make it this one.
– Joe Utichi, Film Focus (UK)
IT’S FAST, FUNNY AND INTOXICATING
Of all the [current] movies centering on male angst, the most compelling by far is THE MATADOR, Riichard Shepard’s film about a hit man suffering a nervous breakdown. This isn’t a brand new storyline, but it’s rendered with marvelous brio. Pierce Brosnan gives his best performance yet. He doesn’t try to gloss over Julian’s brutality or sleaziness, but we can understand why Danny (Greg Kinnear), the mild-mannered businessman who meets him at a hotel bar in Mexico, would be drawn to him. Julian is so honest about his amorality that he’s mesmerizing. The film has the same kind of sinful allure as Julian; it’s fast, funny and intoxicating. The violent scenes have a startling immediacy, but the film has just as much punch in its more intimate encounters. Kinnear creates a deft portrait of a cautious man who is coming apart in his own way. Reeling from the death of a child and hampered by financial pressures, Kinnear’s Danny is feeling vulnerable when he meets Julian and falls under his spell. The unlikely friendship betwen these two very different men galvanizes this macabre variation of “The Odd Couple.” Julian and Danny end up aiding each other in unexpected ways; each helps the other to quell some of his demons. THE MATADOR may not be a profound exploration of male malaise, but it’s almost an obscenely entertaining look at two men on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
– Stephen Farber, Movieline/Hollywood Life Magazine
A FEARLESSLY SELF-MOCKING PERFORMANCE BY PIERCE BROSNAN
Deftly maneuvering through audacious mood swings and tonal shifts, THE MATADOR emerges as a quirky yet commercial co-mingling of black comedy, seriocomic psychodrama, heart-tugging sudser and buddy-movie farce. Propelled by a fearlessly self-mocking performance by Pierce Brosnan as a swaggering vulgarian, writer-director Richard Shepard’s eccentric amalgam remains funny and sustains interest, and he does a bang-up job of lacing humorous scenes with an undercurrent of threat. Brosnan exuberantly trashes his slick screen image, but the film wouldn’t be nearly as fun if Brosnan didn’t develop an aptly edgy give and take with Greg Kinnear. The scene where Brosnan parades through a hotel lobby clad only in cowboy boots and skimpy speedo is drop-dead hilarious.
– Joe Leydon, Variety
In Richard Shepard’s new comedy THE MATADOR, our two heroes first meet in a hotel bar in Mexico City. Danny (Greg Kinnear), a mild-mannered American in town on business, sits down and orders a margarita. Julian (Pierce Brosnan), a tequila-soaked English hitman, takes the stool next to him, and Danny tries polite conversation. “Don’t margaritas always taste better in Mexico?” he asks. Julian nods and adds, “Margaritas and cock.” Danny freaks out and Julian, satisfied, smiles. It’s the beginning of a strange, complicated friendship, and the first of many surprising and witty moments in a surprising and witty film. After Julian takes a shine to his new friend, Danny is soon neck-deep in Julian’s booze, brothel and bullet-filled life. Apart, each man is hopelessly broken-Danny, along with his wife (Davis), is still grieving his young son’s recent death; Julian is drowning in the shallows of a mid-life crisis-but together, they have a shot at turning things around. The whole Odd Couple conceit goes back to vaudeville and beyond, and we could’ve forgiven Shepard had he slapped together a few laughs and come up with a thinking man’s Tommy Boy. But with the help of Kinnear, Davis and a hilarious Brosnan, all at the top of their games, Shepard gives his characters depth and complexity. It’s funny and sad, hopeful and hopeless, light and dark. In other words, it’s a lot like you.
– Richard Dorment, GIANT Magazine
A STARTLING PERFORMANCE BY PIERCE BROSNAN
In Richard Shepard’s THE MATADOR, a sleazy professional hit man (Pierce Brosnan), lonely and self-disgusted, shares a few drinks with a married working stiff (Greg Kinnear) in a Mexico City hotel bar. Shepard, a TV and indie-film veteran, is good at casual meetings and the dynamics of social loathing—when the assassin, eager to impress the square, discusses what he does for a living, the married man is appalled by his cynicism and his violence, but he’s also turned on by it. The movie features a startling performance by Pierce Brosnan. Wearing a scraggly mustache, unshaven, a little out of shape, a fellow who laughs at his own sour jokes, Brosnan suggests the dark-shadowed side of all those swank men of the world he has played for the past twenty years. We seem to be seeing a glamorous movie star in a cracked, filthy mirror, and, for us, as for Kinnear’s regular guy, it’s a bruising encounter.
– David Denby, The New Yorker
PIERCE BROSNAN BLOWS US AWAY
In Richard Shepard’s highly satisfying THE MATADOR, Pierce Brosnan screws, chews and woos the scenery like it’s none of your business. It’s a slam-bang revelation for the actor. Yes, this is basically a buddy picture, but one with a fresh, vaguely deviant sensibility. With focused direction and engaging screenplay by Richard Shepard, you might actually find yourself feeling for this troubled hit man and his more domesticated buddy. The film has a really great look with bold colors and in your face attitude. Above it all is Brosnan’s refreshingly bold performance, probably his finest, that really makes this picture seethe and breathe with nasty abandon. He blows us all away.
– Daniel Wible, Film Threat
A SAVAGE, BREEZY, OCCASSIONALLY OBSCENE AND SOMETIMES POIGNANT MIX OF COMEDY AND CRIME
THE MATADOR is a nice year-end surprise worth checking out. I don’t know why 52-year-old Pierce Brosnan, after four hit outings as James Bond, lost his job as the world’s suavest spy. But THE MATADOR is the perfect revenge on his former employers. It’s a savage, breezy, occasionally obscene and sometimes poignant mix of comedy and crime about a scruffy international contract killer and a meek Denver businessman whose lives become serendipitously intertwined in Mexico City. Mr. Brosnan has never been better. As hit man Julian Noble, a cold-blooded killer who loses his nerve, tires of his work ethic and feels close to a nervous breakdown, Mr. Brosnan is a planet away from anything resembling 007 in this comedic film noir. Maybe it’s conscience, maybe it’s male menopause—but murder for hire just doesn’t have the same old razzle-dazzle. One night, the hit man (who labels his career as a “facilitator of fatalities”) finds himself frittering away the lonely hours between jobs at a hotel bar in Mexico City, getting drunk on margaritas. Seated on a nearby barstool: Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a dull, buttoned-down traveling salesman from the briefcase brigade who is awaiting the outcome of an interview for a new job. They strike up a conversation. Despite having absolutely nothing in common, the chemistry between them is perfect, and they bond. The next day, Danny allows his new chum to take him to a bullfight, where the title of the film is explained. (The literal translation of the word matador is “killer.”) In a moment of candor, Danny reveals that he’s going through a rough patch financially. Julian promises his new pal that he’ll help, and he offers Danny $50,000 to help him on his next “assignment.” Amused, bemused, horrified but interested, Danny has the time of his life. What the hell, he’ll never see this reprobate again. Fade out. While Julian’s “work” takes him to Vienna, Las Vegas, Moscow and Budapest, Danny is home making money in the new position that was made possible by the mysterious but well-timed death of his chief competitor. Little does he know how much he owes the pompous, self-indulgent, alcohol-soaked assassin he met in Mexico. But six months later, Julian shows up haggard and desperate on Danny’s doorstep in Denver, at Christmas, in the middle of a snowstorm, needing a place to hide. “I look like a Bangkok hooker on a Sunday morning after the Navy left town,” he apologizes, heading for the guest room. There’s a contract on his life, but there is one way out: by pulling one last job, with Danny’s help. Julian envies Danny’s suburban-family lifestyle, while Danny is appalled but fascinated by Julian’s reckless and dangerous work, and his wife Bean (beautifully played by Hope Davis) actually finds herself turned on by all the B-movie thrills. So it’s off to a racetrack in Tucson, Ariz., where Danny learns firsthand what it’s like to be Arnold Schwarzenegger (and I don’t mean as “The Governator”). The humor is in the wild, unfiltered dialogue and tongue-in-cheek direction (both by Richard Shepard) and the stylish “odd couple” role reversals of the two stars—what fun to watch Pierce Brosnan as he realizes that all those rogues and crooks he’s known are not what you’d call real friends, while Greg Kinnear gains devil-may-care pugnacity on the job and Hope Davis literally “moons” over the risky, glamorous and profitable prospects of crime. Stylistically, THE MATADOR is like Julian: bold, quick and effortlessly entertaining. And the film is a delectable revelation for Mr. Brosnan—skillfully funny, messily handsome and deliciously sleazy. Self-parody? Maybe. (He’s one of the producers.) He’s explored his subtle and sensitive sides before, but thanks to the witty and twisted script, he shows something new here. He also proves that tuxedos can turn into straitjackets and that bad boys have more fun. Blond, steely-eyed Daniel Craig may grab the publicity as the new 007 for now (and discover the downside later)—but in THE MATADOR, the old 007 is pulling off something sneaky and altogether exhilarating.
– Rex Reed, New York Observer
***1/2 out of 4
In THE MATADOR, Pierce Brosnan plays a remarkably unglamorized hit man. Julian Noble is drunk, needy, smarmy and prone to panic attacks — the anti-Bond, really. The only women he seems to be acquainted with are paid to spend time with him, and he thinks nothing of wandering through a hotel lobby clad only in a Speedo and cowboy boots. Julian finds an unlikely best friend in Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a defeated businessman with bad luck, desperate for a big deal to go through. Julian and Danny end up in Mexico City at the same time, and in one night at the hotel bar they forge their unlikely relationship — sort of. After Danny confides a personal tragedy and Julian responds with an obscene joke, it seems they might not meet again. But months later, there Julian is on Danny’s doorstep in Denver, and it’s clear the two are strangely bound together. This dark, gruffly funny comedy was written and directed by Richard Shepard who uses the basic buddy-comedy formula — two mismatched souls thrown together in unlikely circumstances — but infuses it with something more interesting. The plot is unpredictable, even winsome, and the performances by Brosnan and Kinnear are richly textured and compelling. Also great, as always, is Hope Davis as Danny’s wife, and Philip Baker Hall as Julian’s boss. But the heart of the movie is the friendship between the characters played by Kinnear and Brosnan, and both actors clearly relish the roles. THE MATADOR is a superbly cast story that clearly marks Shepard as a filmmaker to watch.
– Phoebe Flowers, Florida Sun Sentinel
ONE NIFTY LITTLE SUSPENSE COMEDY
“For an assassin, he’s a nice guy,” says Greg Kinnear of Pierce Brosnan’s character in this breezy outing. Brosnan sends up his James Bond image by playing a potbellied “facilitator of fatalities,” a once debonair hit man who’s having a crashing midlife crisis. Kinnear is the ordinary Joe who gets involved in Brosnan’s glammy but dangerous life (they bond after a drunken night in Mexico City). Throw in the luminous Hope Davis as Kinnear’s bedazzled wife—she’s more convinced of Brosnan’s killer staying power than he is—and you’ve got one nifty little suspense comedy. Writer-director Richard Shepard may toss one or two too many twists into his corkscrew plot to keep THE MATADOR from occasionally becoming merely ridiculous, but Brosnan stays on-point as a man who doubts the worth of his entire adult life: Even his despair has panache.
– Ken Tucker, New York Magazine
THE MATADOR FEELS LIKE A CULT GEM
As a career choice, hired assassin may boast some heady perks – a lot of travel, good pay, all the amorality you can stand – but it’s by nature a lonely life, as well. What do you discuss with that Albuquerque salesman in the airport bar? Best just keep to yourself: All that amoral behavior can be on the soul-draining side, and who wants to hear your problems anyway? That’s the dilemma facing Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) in THE MATADOR. Noble is anything but – a boorish, burned-out hit man who submerges his anomie in booze, broads and filthy aphorisms. On a job in Mexico City, he bumps into upright Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a button-down doofus on a career-critical mission himself. Noble promptly offends Wright. Repeatedly. And yet, the two forge a quirky friendship – Danny has a childlike enthusiasm for the cool minutiae of the assassin biz (“I knew there was a reason I never told anyone what I did,” Julian sighs). It’s a bond Noble exploits, eventually, at Danny’s suburban Denver home, before Danny’s suburban Denver wife (Hope Davis), who proves surprisingly enthusiastic to the idea of housing a steely killer. While the terrific John Cusack vehicle “Grosse Pointe Blank” mined similar territory for what was known in the day as Gen X audiences, writer/director Richard Shepard transforms Noble’s belated nobility into a perverse kind of midlife crisis. Golden Globe nominee Brosnan, appearing in a film whose entire budget was less than what he’d personally make on a James Bond flick, clearly enjoys sending up his better-known persona (early on we see him lacquering his toenails), but there’s far more to his performance than mere self-parody. He and Kinnear have a ripe, juicy chemistry that grabs you when the movie is going for laughs and manages to hold on to you when the tone shifts, and adds a layer or two of sentimentality to the proceedings. THE MATADOR feels like a cult gem that just might be able to target a larger audience weary of this season of self-important awards magnets.
– David Kronke, Los Angeles Daily News
THE YEAR’S ODDEST COMEDY
It is no small compliment to Pierce Brosnan to say that his performance in writer-director Richard Shepard’s goofy black comedy THE MATADOR could only be rivaled by Christopher Walken. I don’t know if Shepard had an actor in mind when he conceived Julian Noble, a homeless international hit man facing a serious career meltdown, but Noble’s dark nature, his comic quirkiness and his unpredictability are the hallmarks of Walken’s career. So, stepping into the role was a bold step by the retiring James Bond, and Brosnan’s smooth fit comes as both a shock and a pleasure. He obviously likes playing an engaging sociopath, and he’s good at it. THE MATADOR arrives in theaters just in time to cop the prize as the year’s oddest comedy – essentially a buddy movie about an assassin and his unlikely friendship with a struggling, straight-arrow Denver businessman, Greg Kinnear’s Danny Wright. The two men meet over margaritas in a hotel bar in Mexico City, where Julian is halfway through a double-assassination assignment and Danny is awaiting word on a marketing campaign he has just pitched to a large Mexican company. Both men are in deep career trouble. Danny has been out of work for two years and needs this job to restore both his finances and his sunken self-esteem, while Julian has so much time and blood on his hands, he can barely pull the trigger when targets loom in his cross hairs. When Danny meets him, Julian is dissolute beyond the stubble on his face. He is both a drunk and a whoremonger and getting no joy out of either activity. He has no home, no family, no colleagues and no friends. It is a sign of his weakening resolve that when Danny ingenuously grills him about his profession, he ‘fesses up to being a professional killer. To prove it, he has the scoffing Danny point out a stranger at the bullfight they’re attending, and takes him on a dry run of a hastily but cleverly conceived assassination. The two go their separate ways a day or so later – Julian to ever-more-difficult jobs around the globe, Danny home to his wife (Hope Davis). But something has happened between them in Mexico City that we won’t know until six months later, when Julian shows up at Danny’s door on a cold winter night. It seems the hit man has one more job to do before he can retire and he wants – demands – Danny’s help. The job has a nice twist to it, but the fun is in the changing roles of Julian, who has lost his courage, and Danny, who’s threatening to lose his humanity. It’s strange and funny at the same time. Kinnear convincingly conveys the conflicts of a man both frightened and transfixed. As much as Danny would like for Julian to disappear, especially at his house, where his wife becomes mesmerized by him, he is somehow bound to him. Shepard has written some hilariously offbeat dialogue, especially for Julian. In an early scene, while he’s waiting in a park for a victim to show up and trigger the bomb installed in his car, a young boy begins pestering him with questions. As rudely as he can, Julian tells the boy to get lost, and the boy finally responds, with slumped shoulders and the parting words “See you, wouldn’t want to be you.” “Smell you, shouldn’t have to tell you,” Julian says. If you’re thinking, “I guess you’d have to be there,” take that thought as good advice.
– Jack Matthews, New York Daily News
THE MATADOR HITS THE MARK
He’s graying, a bit grizzled and undeniably lonely, with no home, no job security, no friends and no future to speak of. He has spent most of his years killing strangers, and now he’s starting to question the value of his work. Meet Julian Noble, central figure of THE MATADOR and since he’s played by Pierce Brosnan, you can’t help but see him a bit as James Bond gone wrong. At this stage, Julian is still dashing and still a smash with the ladies, but he may be becoming more dangerous to himself than others. The will to kill is waning, and that weakness leaves him vulnerable. It’s at this point that Julian runs into Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in a hotel bar in Mexico City. Writer-director Richard Shepard has some wonderful characters here, and THE MATADOR works best when he just lets them ramble with one another or focuses on Julian’s rapscallion life. The film’s story — what there is of it — wisely doesn’t even try to compete with its trio of personalities. Yes, there’s a twist or two and enough action to keep things from ever feeling static. But the chief joy in this film is the balance of vulnerability and conniving slickness that Brosnan brings to his hit man and the easy kick that a middle-class husband and wife get out of knowing him. It is, obviously, a part Brosnan has been bred for. At some point, he had to play the anti-Bond, so why not get it over with quickly? Julian is cocksure and indifferent to social niceties — at one point he struts through a tony hotel lobby in little more than a thong — but there’s also a fragility creeping up on him. Like the movie, Brosnan’s filled with humor and a bit more. Equally good, though less flashy, are Kinnear and Davis, each so darn wholesome and yet craving a bit of spice. Director Shepard teases the viewer a bit as he brushes Julian up against them, but the characters hold true. The sheer brassiness of Brosnan playing a failing, faltering hit man, disarmed by a sudden stroke of (gulp) morality is too sweet to pass up. As is a film that dares to show the American middle class living vicariously through hints of violence. THE MATADOR may not be perfect. But it still hits the mark.
– Tom Long, Detroit News
Richard Shepard’s THE MATADOR is a satiric little Mobius strip of a movie, but the results are more tangy then usual. As Julian Noble, an expert but half-sozzled international assassin on the verge of a crack up who gloms onto Greg Kinnear’s Danny Wright in a Mexico City hotel bar, Brosnan looks every inch of his fifty three years. As if liberated by seediness, he’s also funnier and more intimate then he’s ever been. The movie’s premise is the familiar story, one that novelist Patricia Highsmith told again and again, of an innocent meeting his sinister mirror image, but it’s played- and it’s about time, too -as a sick-joke parody of a buddy comedy, until it turns wilder when Danny’s wife, Bean (Hope Davis, wonderful as usual) enters the picture. The real ingenuity of Shepard’s script, though, is the transparent way Julian’s exotic profession works as a cartoonish metaphor; making him an assassin only heightens what’s actually a comic parable about raffish unconventionality meeting the middle class- or about celebrity and fanhood, which is where Brosnan’s lively, atypically self-revealing performance provides an extra charge. On top of razzing the seamy underside of the Bond flicks’ amorality, he’s delivering a hilariously barbed commentary on his own mystifying, ridiculously well-rewarded career. From his murderous trade to his low life cosmopolitanism, Julian isn’t just 007′s scuzzy doppelganger; he’s a caricature of movie-star ego and glamour, and the basic joke of Shepard’s satire is that his line of work turns him into the ultimate outrageous but endearing bachelor friend who livens up a middle class couple’s lives. When Julian gets around to soliciting Danny’s help on a job, the businessman naturally balks. Nevertheless it’s the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him. By the time Julian, now on the run from his vengeful bosses, shows up at his door in Denver six months later, Danny, in one of Shepard’s nicest visual gags, has grown an imitation of the killer’s rakish mustache, possibly to distract his wife from the way his glasses fog up when they’re making love. As for Bean, she’s thrilled to have the crazy assassin she’s heard so much about as a houseguest. Breaking out the whiskey to help him feel at home, she’s soon pushing Danny to help him with his problems- which means pitching in on another killing. Hope Davis can say more with the tilt of her nose then most actresses could manage with a full set of semaphore flags, and she’s splendidly funny at catching the demure amorality of a sweetie-pie housewife who’d be up for anything if life just handed her the chance. She isn’t working in a vacuum though. All three leads play off one another with such comic brio that the parodic subtexts- the whole raft of un-bourgeois temptations that Julian’s randy, alarming presence in the Wright’s home represents -are plain as day. His dangerous life isn’t just code for swinging bachelorhood or bohemian free-spiritness. In an undeveloped but suggestive way, it’s also code for gayness, despite Julian’s strenuous romps with a variety of female bedmates. And of course it’s code for being famous- what Julian is in this household, which is why the Wrights are so ready to toss their values aside and play by his rules. Greg Kinnear’s characteristically excellent performance as the patsy- yes, he’s the new Jack Lemmon, and on good days he matches the old one -is almost done in by the reaction shots that turn every one of Danny’s queasy, eager grins into a punch line. Even so, Shepard pulls off something original. The movie is small, and lighthearted, and yet it’s got all sorts of furtive, delicious resonances. One nice thing about this meeting of opposites is that envy works both ways. In Julian, the Wrights are seeing all the excitement they’ve missed, and they’re gung ho to make up for lost time. But even though Shepard is mocking their inanity, he’s very gentle about it. What he really wants us to register is Julian’s wistfulness at his glimpse of a world where nebbishes like Danny really do marry their high school sweethearts, cope with life’s disasters (the Wrights lost their only child a while back), and get by. That doesn’t mean that Julian has any regrets about enlisting Danny to bail him out, since survival comes first. But as he measures Bean’s unconsciously hot to trot face, he’s also looking at something else he can kill- a marriage -and that’s how the movie ends up being about not only what people will do out of berserk loyalty, but what people like Julian won’t. The real tribute to the ebullient gonzo of Brosnan’s performance is that his final gesture is so affecting, while telling us a little about what it’s like to have been James Bond. It means you have to play a drunken assassin in a cleverly disguised sex farce to convince audiences that you suffer, too.
– Tom Carson, GQ Magazine
In a Mexico City hotel bar, killer-for-hire Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan), who’s better at whacking strangers than talking to them, offends and later charms business traveler Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a decent man whose smile doesn’t quite mask the pain he feels over the death of his son. At the bullfights the next day, the two men share a miniadventure, then Danny heads home to Denver to tell his wife (Hope Davis, transplendent) about the crazy hit man he met, only to have Julian knock on their door a few months later. “I need your help in facilitating a fatality,” Julian admits, and what follows is an improbable, very funny assassination caper that takes an intensely emotional turn when Julian’s slow nervous breakdown crests at the worst possible moment. As imagined by writer-director Richard Shepard, Julian is James Bond gone awry — crude, drunken, freaked — and Brosnan, who co-produced (no fool he), grabs hold of the character like a man who’s glimpsed divinity. Yet, charms aside, Julian remains a cold-blooded killer; if we care about him, it’s because Danny cares. And maybe Brosnan is so shockingly good in this film because Kinnear gives him the sounding board and safety net that the actor never had in his sadly solitary spy-flick duties. Destined to forever play the nice guy, the underrated Kinnear proves himself a great listener — an all-too-rare acting skill that rarely earns awards or blurbs. He’d make a great bartender.
– Chuck Wilson, LA Weekly
A STRANGELY AFFECTING COMEDY
This strangely affecting comedy, directed by Richard Shepard, is like a skewered buddy movie, but it plays by it’s own rules. Pierce Brosnan is ideal and winning, and Greg Kinnear has just the right amount of self-effacing sweetness to make this oddball twosome click together nicely.
– Dennis Dermody, Paper Magazine
THE MATADOR IS A WINNER
Pierce Brosnan will without a doubt get a Golden Globe nomination in that group’s comedy category. He could even land an Oscar nomination depending on how the rest of this fall’s releases fare upon release. Brosnan’s portrayal of a down-and-out hit man is a hoot, and the movie works consistently, through and through.
– Roger Friedman, Fox News
A DELIGHTFULY PERVERSE REINVENTION OF THE BUDDY COMEDY
Like James Bond, Julian Noble is a globe-trotting rake for whom killing comes as naturally as breathing. Julian, however, preffers Speedos to tuxes– all the better to flaunt his fetching beer gut –and is more likely to bang blowsy waitresses than supermodels. Pierce Brosnan has a grand old time playing this tacky terror, and under most circumstances the mustachioed assassin would completely eclipse a character like depressive businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), but in the assured hands of writer/director Richard Shepard, what results is a delightfully perverse reinvention of the buddy-comedy formula, a film that’s equal parts Strangers on a Train, In the Company of Men, and Analyze This. Shepard uses the story of an unlikely friendship as a vehicle for a combination character study and morality play laden with skillfull plot twists. The glamourous genre trappings are off set by an effective streak of domestic drama: back in the states, Danny’s marriage to Bean (Hope Davis) has been on thin ice since the death of their son. Shepard shoots their suburban Colorado home as stylishly as he does the far flung cities on Julian’s itinerary, a move that typifies the even-handedness that makes THE MATADOR a refreshing entry in an overplayed subgenre.
– Andrew Johnston, Time Out New York
THE FIRST MUST SEE MOVIE OF 2006
On the evidence of his role in THE MATADOR, Pierce Brosnan’s post-Bond career looks like an intriguing prospect. The narrative takes the form of a black comedy, with vulgarity, violence and extremely loose morals defining the character of Julian Noble (Brosnan), a hitman who is well past his prime. After a chance encounter with Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) a travelling salesman, a strange and profound relationship begins to develop between the two men. THE MATADOR’s black humour comes from the characters impenetrably bleak situations and the fact that these disparate people end up needing each other to the extent that they do. Brosnan, who turns in a wonderfully layered performance without a hint of vanity proves to be the biggest surprise of the film. It seems a huge shame that he was never allowed to push his characterisation as Bond as far as he is allowed to go with Julian. Whether playing broad comedy or highly emotive drama, he successfully finds the right pitch to connect the scene to the audience. A perfect example of this is the scene where he is phoning around trying to find a friend to spend some time with. Julian’s despair at the lack of human contact (cemented with a sad payoff at the close of the scene) has a dreadful sense of reality to it and strikes a raw nerve. Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis (delivering her customary subtle performance in what could have been a standard ‘boys only’ narrative) excel as the couple who are drawn into what is, on the face of it, a glamorous and exciting world (a myth that 007 invariably helps to purport!) while also providing a sense of suburban normality in contrast to Julian’s international playboy bravado. What impresses most about THE MATADOR is what a fine showcase for character acting the film is. The three principals all deliver fully rounded performances and play off each other beautifully. Despite a brief running time (the film flies by and certainly could have been longer) there is a sense of familiarity about the characters and it seems sad to point out that this is something of a rarity in cinema today. THE MATADOR ultimately breathes much needed life into the stale buddy formula. The film feels fresh and different from other examples of the genre, harking back in some ways to the 1970′s era of American cinema where character and plot lead the way. The fact that it also manages to convey a cool, edgy sensibility is a welcome bonus making the film the first must see movie of 2006.
– Jonathan Wilkins, 6 Degrees Film.com
**** out of 4 stars
THE MATADOR is a quirky, slightly off-kilter and very funny movie. Pierce Brosnan stars as Julian Noble, an aging assassin (or facilitator as he likes to be known since he facilitates people’s passage from this life to the next) whose fashion sense and hair style seems to have peaked in the 1970s. An alcoholic on the verge of job burnout, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with traveling businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in a hotel bar in Mexico City. Like a lot of fans, I’m sure, Brosnan will always be Bond to me, but in this movie that actually helps his character. He comes with confidence and the knowledge of killing of a Bond-type character, but then his manners and dress sense are as far as you can possibly get from the ultra-sophisticated British Spy. He gets the movie’s best and funniest lines, most of which are so completely vulgar that I won’t repeat them here. In The Tailor of Panama, he also played a vulgar spy, yet that character still retained a certain suaveness that is completely absent here. Just try to picture Bond walking across a hotel lobby in just a Speedo and cowboy boots, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other. Coupled with Kinnear, the two make the most mismatched buddies since DeNiro teamed up with Charles Grodin in Midnight Run. They have an onscreen chemistry that lights up the movie. Kinnear brings Danny, the movie’s everyman, to life, holding his own against the scene-stealing Brosnan and generating his own laughs. Hope Davis is also quite funny in a small part as Danny’s wife who suddenly finds a hitman staying over at her house. Dark comedies like this one are far too rare these days. If you get a chance to see this one, take it.
– Three Movie Buffs Review.com
A WICKEDLY FUNNY PIERCE BROSNAN
In a role that might have been written for Christopher Walken, Pierce Brosnan shows a surprising affinity for perverse characterization and black comedy. He plays Julian Noble, an international assassin suffering a serious case of career burnout. Greg Kinnear is Danny Wright, a desperate businessman trying to close a deal in Mexico City when he meets Noble in a bar. A fragile friendship develops between the buttoned-up salesman and the vulgar killer, and something happens in Mexico City that will come back to haunt Wright when Noble shows up at his home in Denver. Writer-director Richard Shepard keeps this dicey material from getting either too silly or too serious and Kinnear proves himself a very able straight man to a wickedly funny Brosnan.
– Jack Matthews, New York Daily News
PIERCE BROSNAN IS DROP DEAD HILARIOUSLY BRILLIANT
THE MATADOR is one of the Sundance Film Festival’s most pleasant surprises. It stars Pierce Brosnan (who is drop-dead hilariously brilliant here) as a burnt-out assassin and Greg Kinnear as a nice-guy businessman who finds himself pals with the gleefully profane hit man. Hope Davis delivers a great supporting turn. The flick is directed with big doses of colorful zing, and the screenplay delivers surprises that don’t feel tacked on or stupid. It’s consistently funny, lovely to look at… and it even gets bizarrely sweet when all’s said and done. Good stuff!
–Scott Weinberg, JoBlo.com
THE MATADOR IS A SHARP, COMICAL HITMAN TALE
Brosnan gives the best performance of his career as lowlife assassin Julian Noble, the booze-soaked, sex-obsessed killer at the center of director Richard Shepard’s exhilarating film. Audience response to THE MATADOR has been positive since the film debuted at Sundance earlier this year. Toronto audiences continue the momentum. If Brosnan wants to remind people of his range as an actor and his ability to have a long and successful post-Bond acting career, then THE MATADOR is as good as it gets.
– Steve Ramos, City Beat
THE MATADOR IS A STYLISH, DARKLY FUNNY COMEDY
Pierce Brosnan stars as a cynical, washed-up, irresistible cad of a hit man in THE MATADOR. It’s the kind of role you’d expect to see Billy Bob Thornton play, or Jack Nicholson if the movie had come out 20 years ago. We know Brosnan’s Julian Noble is devilish from the first time we see him with tattoos and a bad mustache, waking up in a hotel bed with an empty bottle of Maker’s Mark on the nightstand on one side and a naked woman lying next to him on the other. You could call Julian Noble the anti-James Bond — even more so than the part Brosnan played in “The Tailor of Panama,” which was considered the anti-Bond when that film came out in 2001. This character is even more twisted and tormented, and Brosnan wears it as comfortably as one of 007’s custom-made tuxedos. And in THE MATADOR, writer-director Richard Shepard has crafted for Brosnan and Greg Kinnear a breezy, stylish, darkly funny thriller that transcends the cliches of the mismatched-buddy movie genre. Julian goes down to Mexico City to perform a job, something he’s done expertly for the past 22 years, but lately with less enthusiasm. While he’s there he meets Kinnear’s Danny Wright, an optimistic, straight-laced Denver businessman, at the hotel bar. Each of them has had way too many margaritas — it’s Julian’s birthday and he’s been drinking alone because he has no friends; Danny’s been celebrating the deal he thinks he closed earlier in the day — and they forge an unlikely connection. Of course they’re total opposites, a fundamental element of this kind of film. Danny sees Julian as dangerous and exciting and finds himself unexpectedly fascinated by his globe-trotting lifestyle; Julian sees allure in the stability and normalcy of Danny’s suburban existence, complete with a loving wife who’s waiting for him at home (Hope Davis, naturally smart and funny as always). We know from the outset that these two disparate creatures will change each others’ lives, but in Shepard’s film, the journey is the destination. Seemingly in a nod to Brosnan’s days of Bond-style worldwide intrigue, the journey hops from Mexico City to Vienna, Moscow, Budapest and back to Denver. “You a spy, something like that?” Danny asks early in the film, another clever acknowledgment of Brosnan’s best-known screen role, as he and Julian puff on cigars at a bullfight. Julian reveals reluctantly that he’s an assassin, but prefers to think of himself as a “facilitator of fatalities.” “I do what I’m asked to do,” he adds with a twinkle in his eye. The two have an easy chemistry — it helps a great deal that Shepard has given them clever things to say — but both actors create meaty, complex characters who are always believable and never feel like broad types, despite their familiarity. Danny could have been a spineless shlub, a caricature of the naive, big-hearted Midwesterner, but Kinnear brings a great deal of pathos and intelligence to the role. Brosnan, meanwhile, slowly shows the loneliness beneath the bravado as Julian ages and questions himself. Shepard spells things out a bit too obviously toward the end, and he relies a little too heavily on the matador-assassin analogy. But these are minor quibbles about a film that, for the most part, takes aim at its target and nails it dead-on.
– Christy Lemire, Associated Press/MSNBC at the Movies
*** out of 4 stars
THE MATADOR is a lightweight but entertaining black comedy revolving around two disparate characters that become unlikely friends. Julian (Pierce Brosnan) is a burnt-out hitman who’d like nothing more than to hang up his silencer for good, while Danny (Greg Kinnear) is a well-meaning salesman who worries that his wife (played by Hope Davis) is going to leave him if business doesn’t pick up soon. Written and directed by Richard Shepard, THE MATADOR moves at a brisk pace and features a pair of exceedingly enjoyable performances – with Brosnan particularly effective playing a character that couldn’t be further away from James Bond. Shepard’s script is peppered with a number of genuinely funny moments, and the inclusion of a couple of surprising plot twists towards the conclusion keeps things interesting. And while there’s no denying that THE MATADOR is the sort of movie one forgets about moments after it’s ended, the movie’s breezy vibe quickly proves to be irresistible.
– Reel Film Reviews
THE QUIRKIEST BUDDY MOVIE OF THE YEAR
Talk about an odd couple. In Richard Shepard’s quirky new film THE MATADOR Pierce Brosnan is Julian Noble, an assassin who’s tall, handsome, charming and has a yen for hookers, tequila and gold-chain necklaces. For all his vanities, Brosnan’s hitman is starting to lose his nerve. His business may be his pleasure, but the pleasure is adding up to a whopping buzzkill – he’s starting to see his adolescent self in every target’s face. That, and he’s lonely. So on his birthday, the Cockney-talking and mustachioed Julian finds himself sitting at the same hotel bar as his complete and polar opposite, Danny Wright. Danny, played by Greg Kinnear, is short, bespectacled, flat-accented and virtuously clean-shaven, a good guy married to his high-school sweetheart, Bean (Hope Davis), whose only real deviation from normalcy is occasional romps with her on the dining room table. Life for Danny is worse than normal. After losing his job four years ago to layoffs, his son dies in a school-bus accident. A tree falls through his kitchen roof and his wife is starting to lose faith. Everything is riding on a business deal in Mexico City. Failure, for Danny, is starting to look less like an option and more like fate. But fate is what has brought them together.Julian’s breakdown has tainted his reputation as “a facilitator of fatalities.” With his head now in the crosshairs, he needs Danny to get out of trouble and head to the Valhalla of assassins, Greece. Danny, for his part, also needs Julian, but in a much different way. Fate will test his moral fiber and it will be Julian, of all people, who guides him toward the straight and narrow. THE MATADOR is the quirkiest buddy movie of the year. Here moral extremes meet and make friends, as if Jesus suddenly said to himself: “Oh what a friend I have in Satan.” Brosnan’s rakishness takes the bite out of his homicidal occupation. At one point he borrows nail polish from a companionable lady-friend to color his own nails. It’s the kind of humor that makes you think: Sure he kills people, but he’s not all that bad. Kinnear’s authentic Mr. Nice Guy is wondrously inoffesive and so funny as a complement to Brosnan’s porn-star crassness. Kinnear captures ambivalence of wanting to be like Julian, but not wanting to be like him at the same time. In the end, Danny learns what Julian means when he says that guys like him have all the luck.
– John Stoehr, Savannah Morning News
Julian Noble’s march across a Mexico City hotel patio, wearing black speedos and cowboy boots, is one of thoe deliriously incandescent moments that flash across the screen from time to time. Pierce Brosnan’s full-on performance as an aging hit man makes this just one of the outrageous scenes on THE MATADOR. In imagining an unlikey friendship between Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, writer/director Richard shepard (with the supercharged help of cinematographer David Tattersall and editor Carole Kravitz-Aykanian) serves up two portraits of desperation. He also delivers one wildly frenetic riff on the transformational properties of comraderie. What transpies between Danny and Julian in Mexico is bizarre enough. When Julian shows up at Danny’s home in Denver, things go from mad to sweetly perverse. Skillfully maneuvering a number of genres here, Shepard could easily be the matador of his movie’s title. With a character like Julian, he’s taken a lot of bull and won.
– Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post
ONE OF THE TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR! GRADE A
With James Bond squarely behind him, Pierce Brosnan couldn’t have picked a juicier role to help cleanse that martini aftertaste. As a flawed and potently potty-mouthed hit man who develops emotional and psychological problems before an important kill, Brosnan sparks up a friendship with average-guy Greg Kinnear. Both find themselves in Mexico City for pivotal moments of their lives: Brosnan is coming off a botched assassination attempt and needs to reestablish his cred, while Kinnear is there to land a business deal following the death of his child. In both humorous and sincere ways, they soon learn to appreciate each other’s livelihood without being judgmental. It’s a tour-de-force performance for Brosnan, who simultaneously shows plenty of both machismo and vulnerability — and delivers some of the sauciest lines of the year. Grab this one by the horns, and enjoy the ride.
– E! Online
A REFERESHINGLY SMART COMEDY
As a kid in 1986, I remember being very angry that Pierce Brosnan couldn’t get out of his “Remington Steele” contract to play James Bond. I felt Mr. Brosnan, then 33, would be perfect for the role of the famed British super spy. Finally nine years later, after two forgettable Timothy Dalton Bond entries, Mr. Brosnan landed the role. While the four Brosnan Bond movies were improvements, they never quite hit the heights for which I thought he was destined. When I heard the role recently went to Daniel Craig, I felt there was a missed opportunity in the Bond franchise for that one great Brosnan Bond movie. Little did I know that all this time Mr. Brosnan has been working his way up to the role of assassin Julian Noble in writer-director Richard Shepard’s comedy THE MATADOR. With shaggy salt-and-pepper hair, perpetual subtle and a natural Irish lilt, Mr. Brosnan is freed from much of the posturing and preening and has ill-served him in the past. When we first meet his Julian, he is going through the motions of his chosen profession: jetsetting via first class to exotic locations, exchanging briefcases with anonymous contacts and, occasionally, pulling a few triggers from an opportune perch. After a particularly efficient Mexico City hit, Julian realizes that he has forgotten his own birthday and, worse, has no one to celebrate it with. Drowning his sorrows in a hotel bar, he bumps into traveling consultant Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear, also perfectly cast) and a strange friendship is born. Mr. Kinnear has played the milquetoast before, but here he seems to have found the perfect everyman. His Danny is thoroughly believable as the loving husband with just enough of a devious side to get involved with Julian in the first place. Between “Matador” and his excellent performance in Paul Schrader’s 2002 Bob Crane biopic “Auto Focus”, Mr. Kinnear is showing a range that could never have been imagined when he was still mugging his way through the E Network’s “Talk Soup”. Hope Davis is also along for the ride as Danny’s good-natured wife with the unexplained name of Bean. Ms. Davis is always a charming presence and she comes through here as always. What the film does with the Julian/Danny friendship is the real joy of Mr. Shepard’s refreshingly smart comedy. While the premise dips into territory previous covered by “Analyze This” and “The Sopranos”, among others, Mr. Shepard keeps the film’s pace snappy and always stays true to his characters. In the end the film doesn’t say much about the morality of Julian’s profession and everything gets wrapped up in an awfully neat package. But that’s fine. Mr. Shepard isn’t trying to make any statements. Except, maybe, don’t underestimate Pierce Brosnan.
– Joe Lozito, Big Picture Big Sound.com
YOU’VE NEVER SEEN PIERCE BROSNAN QUITE LIKE THIS. AND DAMN IF HE ISN’T HILARIOUS
You’ve never seen Pierce Brosnan quite like this. And damn if he isn’t hilarious. THE MATADOR floats such a familiar boat about opposites attracting and hitman cliches that we’ve probably already made up our minds on exactly where it’s heading. Well you’ll be right and quite wrong. Richard Shepard’s script takes us right up to the moment of inevitability and then veers us just slightly off path enough to keep us from getting settled onto the same old road. It moves along so briskly and confidently that we’re thinking anything but ‘are we there yet?’ Plus, any film that can turn a song by Asia into a perfectly rousing anthem has to be given its props. Brosnan’s performance here is a sincere treasure; possibly the most entertaining of his career. Greg Kinnear is a great straight man for him and Hope Davis delivers a giddily funny turn as the wife who goes all gooey not for the man, but for his gun. Writer/director Shepard certainly deserves his share for putting the words into Brosnan’s mouth. Julian and Danny are rich characters, grasping for something more but not ready to come to terms with what they wish for. The Matador is solid entertainment through and through and will be worth seeing again and again just to watch Brosnan mop up the scenery. Hopefully, future Bonds will be given such the chance.
– Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
THE MATADOR IS A DEFT BLACK COMEDY
Writer/director Richard Shepard has fashioned a great, off beat buddy movie with terrific performances all around from a cast that includes in addition to Brosnan and Kinnear, Hope Davis ans the wonderful Philip Baker Hall. But the movie belongs to Brosnan, who– in a single scene guzzling a beer and walking across a hotel lobby clad in only boots and tiny black speedos –regulates Bond to the dustbin of history.
– Pam Grady, Film Stew
FROM START TO FINISH, JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ABOUT THE MATADOR IS SMART, REFRESHING, FUN AND HILARIOUS
THE MATADOR is, in fact, what people in the business used to call an “original screenplay.” The concept goes something like this: A guy has an idea for a story he wants to tell. He writes the script, someone gives him some money and he makes a smart, entertaining movie that he hopes people will enjoy. Guaranteed, if there were more movies like “The Matador,” Hollywood’s box-office decline would disappear. Our visionary journeyman is Richard Shepard, a veteran filmmaker who has failed to get his name in lights even though he has made some good movies. “Oxygen” (1999), for example, went straight to video, despite crisp performances by Adrien Brody and Maura Tierney, daring characterizations and a taut storyline. “Oxygen” boasted another original idea that another set of distributors decided was too difficult to market. THE MATADOR opens focusing on a luckless couple, Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) and Bean (Hope Davis), who very nearly get to make love on the kitchen table before a fallen tree crashes through the wall. No matter; the unemployed Danny is off to Mexico to strike a business deal that could save him. While movie fans have seen stories about hitmen, it’s a pretty good bet that even the most jaded cynics will be unable to detect just where “The Matador” is going. Focusing instead on the film’s trio of superb, finely-tuned performances, let’s just say that if the Academy cared at all about pure comic resourcefulness, then these actors would all walk away with Oscar nominations. Brosnan, especially, jumps out because he swings so fiercely against his established type. Miles away from James Bond, Remington Steele and the lot, his Julian is a sleazy scoundrel and almost wholly untrustworthy, but totally appealing. He wears too-tight suits, a salt-and-pepper crew cut, a zippy little mustache and blocky boots that stop just past the ankle. He lusts heartily after too-young women, and every metaphor involves prostitutes. Julian’s moment of triumph comes during his much-discussed glide through a hotel lobby wearing nothing but said boots and a little swatch of black, stretchy underwear. Shepard generously allows Brosnan room to play in the role, without shooting off into the outer reaches of hamminess; he’s clearly having the time of his life. Shepard creates a fairly subtle, yet entirely charming, homoerotic relationship between the two men — it’s far more touching than this year’s “official” gay romance. THE MATADOR also has a lovely sense of atmosphere and specific places: a sun-baked bullfighting stadium, a multi-colored Mexican hotel and bar, the Wrights’ modern living room plunked in the middle of snowbound Denver. The characters always have room to maneuver in these distinct settings, and always have props to play with. Yet THE MATADOR maintains an airy freedom rather than stagebound limitations. From start to finish, just about everything about THE MATADOR cries out for adjectives like “smart,” “refreshing,” “fun” and “hilarious.” Rolling it around in your head afterwards reveals more jokes, like how Julian’s metaphors have something to do with prostitutes. (“I look like a Bangkok hooker on a Sunday morning, after the Navy’s left town.”) Or the look of sheer glee in Bean’s eyes when she asks, “Do you think he’ll let me see his gun?” Long after the year’s messages films have curdled within the audiences’ collective brain, images and lines from THE MATADOR will continue to resonate, growing ever funnier and more connected. THE MATADOR may well be this year’s “Big Lebowski.”
– Jeffrey Anderson, Inside Bay area.com
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – THE MATADOR IS A FABULOUS ODD COUPLE COMEDY
One night in Mexico City, “Facilitator of Fatalities” Julian Noble (Brosnan) finds himself friendless and drunk in a hotel bar trying to strike up a conversation with strait-laced travelling businessman Danny Wright (Kinnear) and thus a peculiar and strained “friendship” begins. Julien is everything that Danny is not. Sleazy, amoral, sexually uninhibited, alcoholic and foul-mouthed… oh yes, and he kills people. In a neat distortion of his Bond image Brosnan clearly relishes the chance to trash the image of the super suave British assassin he has played with such skill over the past decade. In fact, all the elements of Bond are here– Julian also travels the globe, sleeps with gorgeous women, drinks glamorous cocktails, kills without mercy and quips his way through life. However, he’s jet-lagged, pays for seedy sex with boys AND girls, drinks four margaritas at a time, is prone to panic attacks and his jokes are crude, inappropriate and offensive. All he wants to do is “retire to a lovely little Greek island full of lovely little Greeks..” but this seems unlikely as killers never get much time off between jobs. The comedy here is at times broad yet handled so skillfully by the two leads that this odd-couple scenario becomes very believable. Greg Kinnear is fabulous as the Denver businessman believing he his cursed with a never-ending run of bad luck following a personal tragedy some years ago. He brings a poignancy and seriousness that cleverly sets up some of the more outlandish scenarios and makes them seem quite plausible. Yet this movie belongs to Pierce Brosnan and his whiskey-soaked David Bowie-esque delivery. Like George Clooney and, dare I say it, Cary Grant, Brosnan has a suave, easy-charm coupled with a deft comic touch that not only has the audience wanting to emulate him at his most sophisticated but creates real belly laughs when he performs perfectly-timed slapstick comedy. The sight of Brosnan wasted in a hotel room in an sombrero on his birthday, realising that due to the nature of his profession he really has no friends to call his own, completely sombrely undermines the notion of the ice-cold hired killer and yet is cruelly and sublimely funny. How many other cinema heart-throbs would steal a hooker’s purple nail varnish and then do his toenails just to add some sparkle to his day? THE MATADOR is a fabulous odd-couple comedy with some great lines, terrific interplay between the leads, a magnificent soundtrack featuring The Jam and The Killers alongside Trini Lopez and plenty more surprises along the way. Highly recommended.
– Darren Williams, BBC Leeds
*** out of 4
If we’re all in agreement that there’s nothing less dignified than a man wearing only a pair of zip-up Chelsea boots, a Speedo and a gut, then Pierce Brosnan has done quite the job chipping away at his glossy 007 image in THE MATADOR, writer-director Richard Shepard’s dark comedy of identity crises. Brosnan plays Julian Noble, an eccentric, gum-cracking, toothpick-munching hit man who lately can’t seem to make his mark. After years of guilt-free murder, Julian finds himself smack in the middle of a breakdown, with either conscience or karma getting in the way of a good, clean kill. Eye on his target, finger on the trigger, Julian gets the sweats, his sight goes fuzzy and, for the piece de resistance, he sees his own face in the gun’s scope. Not an easy shot. Nursing his affliction in a Mexico City hotel bar, Julian meets Danny (Greg Kinnear), a smiley, friendly Denver businessman in khakis and a collared shirt. Danny’s the kind of easily forgettable nice guy that people often describe as a nice guy and then forget. To steal a line from “Chicago,” he’s Mr. Cellophane. So the nice guy and the killer do what you’re supposed to do in Mexico City: take advantage of the circumstances, drink too many margaritas, tell each other things you’d never tell a stranger in the sober light of day, expect never to see one another again. Only Danny’s business deal takes more working out than expected and Julian’s still got to finish his job, so the two find themselves in Mexico City together, strange companions in a strange city. Julian takes Danny to a bullfight and fesses up to being a “facilitator of fatalities”; Danny tells Julian that his son was killed three years ago in a school bus accident and that, though his marriage to wife Bean (the fabulous Hope Davis) is strong, life has been financially desperate and emotionally difficult ever since. They become friends. And we believe them. Shepard makes it easy to imagine how a Julian-type could enthrall a Danny-type– there’s a great scene in the bullfighting stadium where Julian walks a positively giddy Danny through the motions of a hit –while ensuring that neither falls into easily identifiable genre characters. The family man who married his high school sweetheart is both as simple and as mysterious as the nomadic and violent loner. Brosnan’s got the peach of a role here, mostly because it plays so against type. He has a blast sloughing off the glossy sheen of Remington Steele, Thomas Crown and James Bond– there is nothing even remotely debonair in Julian. Still, he’s slick in a way, and Brosnan understands how a man can be seedy and classy at once. The sight of Julian walking through the hotel lobby in boots and barely there bottoms, clutching a cheap beer, cigarette hanging from his mouth, is both amusing, and– you’ve got to see it to believe it –dignified. No less impressive, though far less flashy, is Kinnear, who subtly and slowly reveals Julian’s subversive influence on Danny’s suburban gee-whiz life, asking us to consider just how far a nice guy might go to make ends meet– and what exactly does “nice guy” mean anyway? THE MATADOR works remarkably well as a stylish and unconventional buddy flick– cruising along with wit and wisdom –but it’s at its best when Julian visits Danny and Bean in Denver, flying all the way to middle America to hide from the guys who want to kill him because he couldn’t kill for them. Tingling with excitement and amazed at her own sophistication, Bean couldn’t be more alive or tickled to have a killer in her house. Drinking Scotch and listening to jazz in the den, the threesome couldn’t be more adult, and yet each is gawking wide-eyed at the other, childlike in wonder about how the other half lives. It’s Shepard’s juxtaposition of these very grown-up people and their very grown-up issues–money, life and death–with such obvious arrested development that makes THE MATADOR so funny and touching. And in the end it seems not only possible but plausible that a cold-blooded killer and a pair of high school sweethearts might just have a lot to talk about.
– Alison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune
PIERCE BROSNAN’S PERFORMANCE IS AS FUNNY AND FEARLESSLY ABSURD AS ANYTHING HE’S EVER DONE
Pierce Brosnan’s performance as a once-smooth hitman who has lost his mojo is as funny and as fearlessly absurd as anything he’s ever done. The quintessential moment in the film is the one in which Brosnan, hungover and dressed only in a Speedo and a pair of boots, walks into a hotel swimming pool. It’s delightfully wacky, an indication Brosnan is willing to go the distance to create a memorable character. And the dedication pays off. Danny and Bean’s loving marriage is played nicely by Kinnear and Davis, and their interaction with Julian when he comes to visit six months after the Mexico City incident is just one of the film’s many well-oiled comedic sequences. But Julian himself steals the show, a hopeless man with a vulgar sense of humor whose crass remarks (“I look like a Bangkok hooker on a Sunday morning after the Navy leaves”) seem more pitiful than offensive. He’s like a once-powerful man who’s doing his best to convince you he’s still “got it,” when in fact “it” left him some time ago. Could such a description apply to Brosnan himself? Yes, maybe so — which is why his performance here is all the more daring and outrageous. Sometimes you have to shed all traces of dignity and simply start over, rebuilding yourself from the ground up. That’s what Julian does, and THE MATADOR may be a sign that Brosnan will do it, too. In both cases, it bodes well for the future.
– Eric D. Snider, eFilmCritic.com
Miramax’s pursuit of THE MATADOR makes perfect sense, and not just because it stars Pierce Brosnan in a complete departure from his typical suave tuxedoed role. The film lies somewhere between a character-driven heist along the lines of SEXY BEAST and a slightly dark buddy movie. When Brosnan’s lonely assassin meets up with Greg Kinnear’s hopelessly square yuppie, the unlikely friendship that forms is unpredictable enough to hold our attention to the end. Of course, Hope Davis’ brilliant turn as Kinnear’s naive but slightly naughty wife — who asks, breathlessly, to see Brosnan’s gun soon after meeting him — is the cherry on director Richard Shepard’s sundae. And just try to imagine Brosnan with a tiny mustache, spitting lines like, “I look like a Bangkok whore on a Sunday morning after the Navy left town.” Tough to picture, isn’t it? Better go see it for yourself.
– Heather Havrilesky, Salon.com
FEATURING AN ORIGINAL PERFORMANCE BY PIERCE BROSNAN AND AN UNEXPECTEDLY FUNNY TURN BY GREG KINNEAR, THE MATADOR IS A MALE BUDDY MOVIE THAT RECALLS “MIDNIGHT RUN”
In writer-director Richard Shepard’s dark comedy, THE MATADOR, the paths of a hit man and a salesman, who accidentally meet in a Mexico City bar, crisscross in ways that are full of surprises. THE MATADOR mixes the genres of the offbeat comedy and the assassination thriller with confident touch and stylistic flourishes. Featuring an original performance from Pierce Brosnan, and an unexpectedly funny turn from Greg Kinnear, THE MATADOR is a male buddy film that recalls “Midnight Run,” starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, and others of its kind. The former James Bond has done a few comedies as a romantic lead, such as “Laws of Attraction,” but none too successfully. Before that, Brosnan courted Sally Field in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” but he played second banana and the butt of Robin Williams’ jokes. It’s therefore a pleasant surprise to find Brosnan in top comedic form in THE MATADOR. Over the years, he has developed a loose, relaxed way of acting, being completely at ease in front of the camera, which works well for this movie. THE MATADOR takes the hit man film and spins it on its head, creating a character-driven story that’s hip and full of unexpected turns. Shot in various countries, the story spans only several days, but many more margaritas. “The margaritas always taste better in Mexico,” Julian says, meaning every word of it. Shepard uses the hotel lobby bar as a strategic site in which encounters take a specific shape due to the peculiar nature of their interaction. People in bars tell the truth about themselves with the safety net of knowing that they are never going to see their listeners again. f the locale is original, the narrative strategy, throwing two disparate men together, is more familiar from other male buddy pictures. Here, one man is an average businessman abroad, the other an international hit man. Contesting movie clichés about hit men, Shepard makes Julian’s character “off kilter.” The director cites Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast” as an inspiration for reinventing and turning upside down a genre picture. In THE MATADOR, Shepard takes the “one last heist” film and makes it into a darkly humorous character-driven story. Though there’s action and some suspense, the film is at heart a comedy about a burned-out killer on his way out, who’s at a crossroads in his life with choices to make. There’s empathy for Julian as a man who has lost his soul, yet deep down in his heart, there’s still a flame. At the center are two different men, who just happen to find themselves in similar moments in their lives, and through interaction, they turn each others’ lives around. Tough coming from different walks of life, due to their vulnerability at this particular time, they gravitate towards each other, and ultimately end up pulling each other out of their respective crises in a funny manner. Brosnan meets the challenge of playing a professional killer who’s far different from the polished, elegant secret Agent 007. At first, Julian is cursed by an almost blank consciousness, but then he begins to reflect upon this crazy life of international intrigue and murder. Self-reflection is not an attribute of spy movies, and in this respect, too, THE MATADOR deviates from its genre. It’s exciting to watching an actor playing against type a character that departs from his suave roles in films like “The Thomas Crown Affair” and the Bond movies. Brosnan maintains well the balance among the various elements of his role: The serious, the real, the dramatic, the truthful, and the comedic. He is helped by Shepard the writer, who has constructed an unpredictable plot; you never really know where things are going. The secondary characters help define the story’s unique world, adding texture and flavor to the film. and they are played by such wonderful actors as Dylan Baker, Philip Baker Hall, and Adam Scott. Cinematographer David Tattersall, whose credits include “The Green Mile” and “Star Wars” (episodes I, II and III), helps Shepard create the film’s lush, vibrant look with bright colors like yellow and orange and bold lighting.
– Emmanual Levy.com
THE MOVIE IS AT THE SAME TIME FUN, FUNNY, DRAMATIC AND INTELLIGENT
******** out of 10
In THE MATADOR, Pierce Brosnan plays Julian Noble, an assassin who’s fighting a losing battle. He’s aging, and the number of assassinations he’s committed is beginning to take its toll. Greg Kinnear plays Danny Wright, a salesman who is also struggling with his career due to his inability to come to grips with the tragic death of his son. So, one day, Danny gets sent to Mexico on a sales trip that he can’t afford to screw up. There, in a hotel bar, he meets Julian who is there on his next project. Although at first Julian acts like a drunken fool (but in a funny drunken fool kinda way), he later apologizes and invites Danny to see a bullfighting competition. There, he reveals that he’s an assassin and lets Danny in on a few trade secrets. Fascinated, Danny attaches himself to Julian and the two form an unlikely friendship. But, when Julian asks Danny to help with his latest assignment, the strength of their newfound friendship is tested and the lives of these two men are forever changed. Alright, maybe I’m being a little too dramatic, but you get my drift. I went into THE MATADOR not knowing too much about the story and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a decent story that is both well acted (by Brosnan and Kinnear) and well told. Although it may not appeal to all audiences, the movie is at the same time fun, funny, dramatic and intelligent. I mention intelligent most importantly. Too often these days, movies will appeal the lowest common denominator. They’ll go for the cheap laughs and the cheaper thrills. But, THE MATADOR builds both the story and the characters slowly, never revealing too much, and in the end provides a satisfying (if only a little predictable) conclusion. How often can you say that about a movie these days? If carrying this movie. Only 10 years ago, the guy’s career was a write-off. Sure, he’d had success on TV in the 80s with Remington Steele, but it appeared he’d never break out of that role. After several appearances in movies that never went anywhere, he finally succumbed to public pressure and took the role of James Bond in GoldenEye. The move payed off, and playing 007 lead to better roles and more success. Today, he is one of the more reliable go-to guys in Hollywood. And although we’ll never again see him don the 007 tuxedo, he’s had enough success to get the projects he wants to make off the ground. So, it’s because of Brosnan that this movie got made and it’s because of Brosnan that this movie succeeds. As I said earlier, THE MATADOR may not be a movie for everyone. Unfortunately, black comedies often aren’t. But, if you’re the type of person who can appreciate the lost art of storytelling and want to see a post-007 Pierce Brosnan in a stand-out performance, THE MATADOR will not disappoint.
– Liam Cullen, Empire Movies.com
Surpassing its superficial appearance as another one of Hollywood’s typical odd-couple style buddy flicks, THE MATADOR manages to transcend the cliches of its basic plotline on the strength of the character-acting so richly developed by the film’s two stars. Incorporating exotic locales and fast-paced action sequences, THE MATADOR plays off of Brosnan’s James Bond persona to clever ironic effect. Fearless of looking absolutely ridiculous, Brosnan has traded in Bond’s designer tuxedos for a Speedo and cowboy boots, perfectly embodying his hitman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. As the levelheaded businessman with emotional issues of his own, Kinnear’s Danny complements Brosnan’s eccentricity. Despite the film’s tendency to veer in different directions–from physical comedy to serious drama to action caper–it is Kinnear’s and, most especially Brosnan’s, ability to showcase the complexities of the human psyche that keeps THE MATADOR worthwhile.
– Francesca Dinglasan, Box Office Magazine
AN EXTREMELY ENJOYABLE, SUPERBLY WRITTEN COMEDY DRAMA WITH A TERRIFIC COMIC PERFORMANCE FROM PIERCE BROSNAN
**** out of 5
Pierce Brosnan stars as Julian Noble, a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, womanising hit-man who travels all over the globe to do his corporate gigs. On a trip to Mexico City, Julian flips out and finds himself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It is at that point that he meets Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a unlucky businessman hoping to land an important deal, and the two men become unlikely friends. THE MATADOR concentrates on character and dialogue despite a premise that seems to practically guarantee action of some kind. What emerges is a film about friendship, albeit a very unusual friendship, and Shepard fills the screen with bright, rich colours in order to keep the film visually interesting during the frequently hilarious dialogue. The performances are wonderful and Brosnan relishes the chance to play such an outrageous character. He also gets all the funny lines and there are some terrific laugh-out-loud moments. Kinnear is extremely likeable as perpetual nice-guy Danny and he’s the perfect foil for Brosnan, while Hope Davis is on top form as Danny’s wife, Bean. Her tipsy scene and her swearing scene are just two of the film’s many highlights. In short, The Matador is an engaging black comedy that is frequently hilarious and it is definitely worth seeing for Brosnan’s performance alone. Highly recommended.
– Matthew Turner, View Business. com (UK)
THE MATADOR is a quite funny film about a hit-man that’s starting to run out of steam. This is an entertaining film first and foremost. It seemed fairly obvious to me why Brosnan would take on this film: it’s the antithesis to Bond. This is what Bond would be in 2005, an aging sex craved killer who’s running out of time and realizing he’s alone. A very enjoyable and fun film.
– Karina Longworth, Cinematical
IT’S SORT OF LIKE SIDEWAYS WITH SNIPER RIFLES AND HOOKERS
Pierce Brosnan plays a cheesy, heartbreaking hit man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He befriends regular guy Greg Kinnear for some sad/hilarious male bonding. It’s sort of like Sideways with sniper rifles and hookers.
– E! Entertainment Television Online
From the opening shots of a Mexican bullfighter — the ”killer” of title and metaphor — to the vivid visual design built from hot primary colors and shots of cool long corridors, THE MATADOR waves crazy overconfidence like a cape. Here, writer-director Richard Shepard asserts, is a seedy, amoral contract killer who goes by the gussied-up name of Julian Noble, calls himself a ”facilitator of fatalities,” and is played with businesslike breeziness by Brosnan, aiming yet another sharp boot up the arse of his James Bond persona. Among Noble’s many disgusting, anti-Bond qualities are a taste for cheap booze and underage girls and a conversational stream of sexual crudities. He’s also burnt-out — a phrase not in the 007 handbook — and THE MATADOR gets its lurching game on when Noble meets squeaky-clean traveling salesman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear, projecting the remembered blurriness of every woman’s college roommate’s husband) in a Mexico City hotel bar. The slimeball and the straight arrow find masculine common ground nursing sadnesses and fantasizing about the greener grass of the other fellow’s life while Mexico City pulses with possibility and loss. Hope Davis is underused as Danny’s suburban-sexy wife, and the whole thing stumbles to a lurching close — not the sharp, clean final thrust of a matador at his peak, but the messy slashings of an eager apprentice. Still, the cinematography is consistently hipster handsome, the script is bracing in its lewdness, and Brosnan adds no unnecessary weight to Noble’s meaninglessness.
– Lisa Schwartzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
A BREEZILY SAVAGE, OCCASIONALLY OBSCENE, POIGNANT CRIME COMEDY
Pierce’s surefire hit. While all eyes are fixed on the new James Bond, the old one has pulled off something rather sneaky. Who knows why 52-year-old Pierce Brosnan, after four successful outings, lost his job as the world’s most famous spy. But THE MATADOR – a breezily savage, occasionally obscene, poignant crime comedy – is the perfect revenge on his former paymasters. Brosnan excels as hitman Julian Noble, “a magnificently cold moron” (his words) on the verge of a nervous breakdown – lonely, jittery and thus in danger of being replaced by a “younger, cheaper kid”. One night, on a job in Mexico, he strikes up a conversation with an unassuming, businessman (Greg Kinnear) and, at a bullfight the next day, teaches him about the perfect kill. Six months later, on a snowy Denver night, we find out whether the lesson hit home. Brosnan has exposed subtle sides before but, thanks to the wonderfully twisty script, he shows something new here. There’s no missing the point that elegant tuxedos can turn into straitjackets. Younger, cheaper Daniel Craig may be grabbing the headlines right now, but it’s a non-blonde who is having all the fun.
– Charlotte O’Sullivan, Evening Standard (UK)
THIS MACABRE COMEDY HITS THE BULL’S-EYE
If Pierce Brosnan is going to be saddled with spy-movie baggage, he’s determined to buck our expectations and ride into new territory. In “The Tailor of Panama,” he was great as a duplicitous diplomat. In THE MATADOR he’s even better, as a seedy, needy hit man. He plays Julian, a “facilitator of fatalities” who finds himself friendless in Mexico City. In a hotel bar, he latches on to traveling salesman Danny (Greg Kinnear). When Danny refuses to believe that this tactless drunk is a hit man, Julian takes him on an assignment at a bull- fighting ring. The heady whiff of danger follows Danny home to Denver. When the increasingly unstable Julian arrives unannounced on Christmas Eve, Danny’s wife (Hope Davis) is weirdly smitten. By keeping us continually off balance and freeing Brosnan to skewer his own image, this macabre comedy hits the bull’s-eye.
– Joe Williams, St. Louis Post Dispatch
THE MATADOR IS AN AMUSINGLY ADROIT PIECE OF WORK
Richard Shepard’s THE MATADOR, from his own screenplay, casts Pierce Brosnan in his first role since he was dropped from the James Bond series. This is to say that if the 52-year-old Mr. Brosnan were still on board as 007, he wouldn’t have been allowed to branch out in THE MATADOR as a privately hired contract killer for fear of tarnishing his kill-only-evildoers image. Actually, hit man is such a common career choice in movies these days—especially in our own hard-to-find-a-good-job-and-keep-it times—that there is little shock value to be had in merely disposing of other human beings for a profit. The comic twist in THE MATADOR is that Mr. Brosnan’s globe-trotting assassin, Julian Noble, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown when he bumps into Greg Kinnear’s struggling Denver businessman, Danny Wright, at a hotel bar in Mexico City, which both men are visiting on business. The bullfight scenes are enacted in sufficient detail to indicate that writer-director Mr. Shepard has seized the matador metaphor for Julian and will run with it for the rest of the picture. Yet who has ever heard of a matador needing a buddy out there in the ring to help restore his lost confidence? This is the switch that Mr. Shepard pulls on his genre. There are several levels of trickery involved in his management of the narrative. First, we have to be rooting for the hit man to succeed in his mission in the first place; second, his targets have to be anonymous or unlikable, and unconnected to any identifiable politics—even when the locale happens to be Moscow, as it is on one occasion in THE MATADOR. The penalty for failure on Julian’s part is almost certainly death, but at whose hands? Mr. Shepard gives us only a sliver of specificity in a mysterious intermediary known almost facetiously as Mr. Randy, played with casual portentousness by that charismatic character actor, Philip Baker Hall. The crux of the relationship in Mexico City between Julian and Danny involves an action that we never see onscreen and an intervention in Danny’s floundering career— of which Danny himself is blissfully unaware until a desperate Julian comes banging on his door six months later, during a snowy Christmastime in Denver. Danny’s own career is now booming and his marriage thriving, perhaps from his wife’s own association of her husband’s business success with his renewed virility (and is this not also the American Way?). The final harmless joke of this essentially harmless entertainment is the unexpected reaction of Danny’s wife to the visit of a professional killer: She finds it pleasantly intriguing, titillating and just a bit sexy to be sleeping under the same roof as a hired assassin. The wife’s fascination with criminality remains safely vicarious; THE MATADOR would have been a more dangerously complex film if it didn’t. As it is, the three major characters remain frozen in their psychological and sociological types.Still, on one level The Matador illustrates Charlie Chaplin’s insight in Monsieur Verdoux (1947): that if war, as Clausewitz’s dictum has it, is the logical extension of diplomacy by other means, then murder (in Chaplin’s view) was simply the logical extension of business. But there is also a touch of amateur psychological therapy in Danny’s accompanying Julian on his next mission so as to lend him “moral” support. And why not? Whether wittingly or unwittingly, Danny himself became the beneficiary of the murder business six months before in Mexico City. In the end, Julian saves himself by assassinating his own would-be assassin, with Danny’s supportive presence on the scene. He then leaves Danny and Bean to their home and hearth, albeit a little regretfully in view of his own unbridled existence of forbidden pleasures and soul-destroying hedonism. THE MATADOR is admittedly a trifle in the long view of cinema, but it’s an amusingly adroit piece of work nonetheless. My only regret is that the always remarkable Ms. Davis didn’t have more to do. Mr. Brosnan and Mr. Kinnear are otherwise almost perfectly cast, written and directed as polar and temperamental opposites.
– Andrew Sarris, New York Observer
Film festival crowds at Sundance and Toronto were entertained and disarmed by this spiky, inventive teaming of a boozy, whoring international assassin in personal crisis (Pierce Brosnan) and a beaten-down businessman (the underrated Greg kinnear). It’s an image-busting field day for Brosnan as Julian Noble, a foul-mouthed, bigger-then-life, oddly sympathetic shitheel.
– Playboy Magazine
THE MATADOR is a genre-tweaking comedy drama. It’s easy to see why the role appealed to Pierce Brosnan; it’s an attempt to show what could have been in the Bond universe. And what could have been proves to be a lot of fun.. Regardless of who replaces Brosnan as 007, it’s difficult to imagine the next Bond movie being as stylish or well written as this.
– Clark Collis, Blender Magazine
THE MATADOR is a heartwarming comedy that has a chance to do well at the box office if it finds the right audience. It’s an uncommon buddy film starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. The film has a nicely modulated mix of comedy and pathos, but succeeds as much because of the two lead performances as Richard Shepard’s writing and directing. This is an audience-pleaser through-and-through. Brosnan plays Julian Noble, a burned-out hitman trying to perform a few last jobs before getting out of the business. One night in a Mexico City hotel bar, he encounters businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), and strikes up a conversation. The next day, they meet again, and Julian ends up taking Danny to a bullfight. True confessions ensue, and Julian reveals to Danny that he’s an assassin, then gives him a primer on how to kill someone. (This is a lot funnier than it sounds – trust me.) The two part, only to rekindle the friendship a year later when Julian shows up at Danny’s Denver home. One of the reasons this film works as well as it does is because Danny doesn’t go through the shock/outrage phase when he learns about Julian’s profession. He’s nonplussed, but takes it in stride. As a result, we get one of the movie’s best sequences, in which Julian teaches Danny the tricks of his trade as they go on a mock hit. Another wonderful scene occurs later, when Julian shows up in Denver and Danny’s wife (Hope Davis) wants to see his gun. In addition, there’s a moment reminiscent of the boulder scene in Sexy Beast, except in this case the object is a tree instead of a big rock. Brosnan plays the role with a kind of manic energy more appropriate to Basil Fawlty than James Bond. Kinnear is the straight man. Together, these two make an appealing pair – something that’s mandatory for the story to work. They’re an odd couple, to be sure, but each fills a need for the other. It can be difficult to find the right mix of comedy and drama in a movie of this nature, but Shepard does a solid job. There’s nothing edgy or groundbreaking about THE MATADOR, but it’s funny, touching, and ultimately endearing – and it’s tough to ask more of this sort of film.
– James Berardinelli, ReelViews
The role of Julian Noble, the professional hit-man at the centre of THE MATADOR– or “facilitator of fatalities,” as he describes himself –is played for laughs and with tongue admirably in cheek by Pierce Brosnan. Noble is jaded and losing his touch when, on an assignment in Mexico City, he encounters a US businessman (Greg Kinnear) longing for a break. That chance meeting changes both their lives in director Richard Shepard’s spirited, briskly paced yarn, featuring Brosnan in the wittiest, most self-effacing performance of his career. Wearing a moustache that would be more appropriate on a 1970s porn star, he shrugs off a compliment about his appearance with the line “I look like a Bangkok hooker on a Sunday morning, after the navy’s left town.” In another scene, as he strides nonchalantly in black Speedos and leather boots through a busy hotel lobby, Brosnan puts his James Bond days firmly and finally behind him.
– Michael Dwyer, Irish Times
THE MATADOR IS AN UNUSUALLY INTELLIGENT PIECE OF WORK, ADEPT AT COMBINING COMEDY WITH MOMENTS OF REAL PATHOS
You a spy? Something like that?” asks Greg Kinnear’s character to Pierce Brosnan’s in writer/director Richard Shepard’s THE MATADOR. You can see why the question would be asked in the first place. Brosnan, after all, was the celebrated James Bond, Britain’s go to guy for saving the world (and their film industry). And the early signs are all in place: our man certainly has a way with the ladies, he packs a trusty revolver and as for the confident swagger, well, talk about licensed to thrill. But just as you settle down, safe in the belief that martinis will be shaken, and not stirred, subtle changes take place. THE MATADOR might open on a close up of Brosnan’s world-weary face but almost immediately pulls out to reveal – yes! – a moustache. The name is now Noble, Julian Noble and our hero is applying liberal amounts of sunscreen and has swapped martinis for margaritas. The cold war must be over. Or is it? Make no mistake, “The Matador” is Brosnan’s ‘f*** you’ to those involved in making the decision to not cast him as Bond for a fifth time. His interviews illustrated how disappointed he was and his performance single-handedly liberates him from 007 once and for all. He plays the hit man Noble by name and by nature. A master of his craft, though a tiring one with no fixed abode, he travels from city to city, facilitating the needs of his superiors. “It’s mainly corporate jobs”, he explains to a disbelieving Danny Wright (Kinnear) when fate inevitably brings them together down Mexico way. That’s right, we’re once again in the realms of the buddy movie but you’re in safe hands. Kinnear played the perfect foil to Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets” and delivers the moral conscience to Brosnan’s cold-hearted killer. Danny Wright is a down on his luck salesman, who hasn’t recovered from the loss of his son and job a few years ago. The one bright spot in his life is his marriage to Bean (Hope Davis), a relationship that still sparkles with passion and joie de vivre. An early scene finds our lovers getting down and dirty in the kitchen only to be interrupted by a tree crashing through the window. “Still feeling horny?” enquires Danny, and you get the feeling she probably is. Now with the added pressure of salvaging his house, in addition to his finances, Danny duly arrives South of the border on a make-or-break deal. Whilst there, he encounters Noble and from that point on, the drinks and dilemmas start to flow. The twosome should have been cast on Broadway for “The Odd Couple.” They feed off each other and it’s a joy to watch. Matthau and Lemmon…sorry, Noble and Wright meet in a hotel bar, a location last used to such exhilarating effect in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation”. And when you come to think about it, what better backdrop could there be for strangers to meet in? Noble spits out one liners with relish – his two-thirds Dick Van Dyke, one-third Cockney accent is as intoxicating as his seemingly permanent state of drunkenness. “If I can find a hooker’s heart, I can find you, Danny Wright,” he roars with pride. And Wright does the only decent thing by going along for the ride. And what a ride: Danny experiences bullfighting, the nuances involved in killing and quickly becomes drawn in to this way of life. Kinnear is clearly having the time of his life, ironic really when you consider that his part is getting off on other peoples deaths but you imagine that you can’t take yourself too seriously when it comes to this kind of movie. THE MATADOR is an unusually intelligent piece of work, adept at combining comedy with moments of real pathos. It will be hailed as Brosnan’s stand out performance to date and he invests more energy here than at any stage of his career. Not for nothing did he also co-produce the film and he utterly dominates every frame he appears in. Whether he’s engaging the services of hookers, drinking with Danny (“I’m a big fan of the ‘gotta pee’ theory of assassination”) or getting a worrying case of the yips, you won’t be able to take your eyes off him. Shepard’s script is engaging and refuses to stick to traditional plot conventions. But possibly his most inspiring casting was that of his principal cameraman David Tattersall. He films the locations with such poise – Mexico City and the bullfight, in particular, literally shimmer on screen – that they become part of the supporting cast. Speaking of which, Philip Baker Hall, as Noble’s mentor Mr. Randy, plays the father figure with sensitivity and Hope Davis, although not given nearly enough to do, represents the true soul of the movie. As Bean, her enquiring mind (“Can I see your gun?”) and good grace carry you along, culminating in possibly the loveliest scene of the year when she dances to “In The Wee Small Hours” with Noble, all under the watchful eye of her husband. Naturally, though, you’ll remember Brosnan and Kinnear longest and when Noble tells Wright, “That’s why I like you, you’re the complete opposite of me!”, it becomes abundantly clear that the conversation is actually taking place between Brosnan’s Bond and Noble. Talk about the ultimate character assassination. Over to you, 007.
– Glen Levy, The Trades.com
THE MATADOR IS A GUTSY, GALVANIZING ADVENTURE
James Bond’s loss is film goers’ gain. In THE MATADOR, Pierce Brosnan plays another man with license to kill, yet he gives a performance wildly unlike his suave superspy. In fact, it may be his best role yet. Part odd-couple buddy flick, part action-thriller and always fiercely funny, The Matador is a gutsy, galvanizing adventure about paid assassin Julian (Brosnan) and innocent Denver businessman Danny (Greg Kinnear), who meet late one night in a Mexico City bar. Danny is trying to revive his career with a big deal. Julian is indulging in his usual hedonism after scoring a hit. A loner with no roots, no partner and no home, Julian finally confesses to someone. Bonding with Danny at a bullfight the next day, he reveals his grisly occupation. Though Danny keeps the secret, everything changes. Julian has his first and only confidant, if not friend. It’s the kind of connection that could trap him — or save him. That’s just the setup for writer-director Richard Shepard’s globe-hopping, time-shifting, giddily eventful tale, which gains further momentum when Julian suffers job burnout. Shepard never takes Julian’s hits to the point of bloody results. He wants you to love the character, so he lets him off the hook. That may seem a cheat, but THE MATADOR‘s old-style approach to violence by suggestion is a refreshing change of pace. Kinnear is reliably good as a twitchy, sheltered guy with scruples and depth. Despite Julian’s seductive corruption, he stays decent at heart — devoted to his wife (Hope Davis) while haunted by their infant son’s death. But this is Brosnan’s picture, big-time. He relishes his role like a hotshot pilot given a fast plane, embracing Julian’s gonzo gusto and fast-talking, hard-living bent. For a killer, he’s also humanized by self-mockery. In fact, he’s beyond shame. In one scene, a paunchy Brosnan marches through a hotel lobby clutching a beer can and wearing just a Speedo and cowboy boots. Striding outside, he plops into the pool, still holding his drink. He’s not being rude. He’s relaxing. When you’re a “facilitator of fatalities,” you fight stress by whatever means you can. And if you’re really smart, you find a friend to help you.
– Bruce Westbrook, Houston Chronicle
THE MATADOR IS AS ENTERTAINING AND FUNNY A MOVIE AS I SAW ALL WEEK AT THE TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL
Brosnan is great, in a role that feels like a sly send-up of his James Bond persona, and the supporting players (the busy Hope Davis and the peerless Philip Baker Hall) are just as good.
– Kevin Canfield, The Journal News
THE MATADOR GRABS THE BULL BY THE HORNS
THE MATADOR, the latest film from writer/director Richard Shepard, may be the most intriguing comedy of the holiday season. With a limited but incredibly competent cast, THE MATADOR draws you in with both humorous stints of dialogue and a side of Pierce Brosnan you’ve never seen before. THE MATADOR, which was the closing film at the Second Annual Bahamas International Film Festival, follows Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan), a 22-year veteran hitman with more than a few screws loose. He paints his toenails. He strolls through a hotel lobby, dressed in only a black Speedo and zip-up leather boots while holding a beer. He’s an alcoholic with a taste for bad jokes and young girls. Brosnan brings a surprisingly believable quirkiness to his character, the polar opposite to the James Bond role he’s famous for playing. Julian meets Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in a bar while both are visiting Mexico City on business. Julian is getting drunk after a successful hit and secretly celebrating his birthday. Danny, an honest traveling salesmen, is tossing back margaritas after a successful meeting with, what he believes to be, clients. Both are somewhat unsatisfied with their lives. Both are looking for a new direction. And both have no idea that the only thing missing in their life was each other’s companionship. While watching a matador in Mexico City, Julian confesses his profession with ease and sincerity, a small hint of pride heard in his voice. “Some people need to be eliminated,” Julian almost shrugs, cigar in hand, his mind somewhere else. This sparks Danny’s interest, which soon enough turns into disinterest that leads to a six month hiatus between the two. While on a job in Budapest, Julian finds himself unable to “eliminate” the target. He becomes an aging train wreck, his gray hair mangled, his attractive face sagging. Soon enough, Julian becomes the target and can turn to the only person left in his corner, the gentle Danny Wright with a knack to do what’s right, but a nagging sensation to help a friend. The casting in THE MATADOR is perfect, with each character giving a flawless performance as everyday people with a lot more than what meets the eye. Hope Davis (from American Splendor fame) gives a lovable performance as Kinnear’s affectionate and supporting wife, Bean, the only thing that seems to keep him moving. Three years prior, the Wright’s lost their son in a school bus accident. Soon after, Danny was laid off, forcing him to become a traveling salesman, a job he seems perfect for but unsatisfied with. THE MATADOR delivers on every aspect of filmmaking. The structure and writing of the film is as incredible as the performances given by the actors. The direction is sharp, the transitions are crisp and the title cards that bare the names of the cities in which Julian travels for “jobs” are in large font and take up the screen, which present a unique look for the usually simplistic titles. THE MATADOR flashes both signs of humor and sadness. The theatre exploded with laughter after priceless one-liners delivered by Brosnan while you could hear the echo of crunching popcorn as Kinnear explains how he lost his son. Overall, THE MATADOR makes for exciting entertainment and proves to be one of the funniest (and no doubt quirkiest) performances of Brosnan’s career. And to think, all he had to do was trade in a tux for a shade of dark metallic toenail polish.
– Matthew Cromwell, Bahamas B2B Film Critic
THE MATADOR IS A PICARESQUE COCKTAIL WITH A TARANTINO TWIST – IT IS THE ODD COUPLE WITH A BUZZ ON
Heard the one about the hit man and the entrepreneur who walk into a cantina? Perhaps we shouldn’t smear dissipated Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) by calling him a hit man. For this guy, who swaggers up to the hotel bar and staggers through its lobby, styles himself a “fatality facilitator.” Also, perhaps we shouldn’t aggrandize the meek Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) by making the struggling Denver businessman sound more successful than he is. But as musky tequila and citrusy Cointreau become something else entirely when shaken into a margarita, so salty Julian and sweet Danny blend an unlikely friendship in Mexico City, where they bounce between bar and bullfight. Brazenly enjoyable, THE MATADOR is a picaresque cocktail with a Tarantino twist. It is The Odd Couple with a buzz on. The film, written and directed by Richard Shepard, boasts a bawdily entertaining performance by coproducer Brosnan, whose work here has prickliness and heat not typically associated with the blandly smooth actor of Remington Steele, James Bond and Thomas Crown. There is nothing suave about Brosnan’s scruffy Julian. His brushy mustache makes him resemble a debauched Tom Skerritt. His cocksure strut is 180-proof Mick Jagger. And his volatility suggests a nuclear reactor on the verge of meltdown. By contrast, Kinnear’s Danny is clean-shaven, Simon-pure and straight-arrow, all the better for Julian to corrupt him. Kinnear’s centered performance is the fulcrum for Brosnan’s seesaw dance. The crisply written film takes its title from the corrida where Julian observes to Danny that hit men, like matadors, should complete the kill in one swift jab. At the arena, Julian shows Danny how he goes about his work. Combining a chessmaster’s strategy with a magician’s misdirection of his observers, Julian deftly shows how to get his mark in his crosshairs. But the murder business is murder, and Julian needs a break. What’s refreshing about THE MATADOR, which combines the pungency of Sexy Beast with the poignancy of Sideways, is that it doesn’t adhere to the beats of the opposites-attract comedy. It is an opposites-transform comedy, but unpredictably so. Good comedy depends on surprise, and throughout THE MATADOR I had no idea where the film was going, especially in a scene where Julian, in Speedo and unzipped ankle boots, saunters through a hotel lobby, chugging a cerveza. Most unexpected were sequences involving Danny’s wife, Bean, beautifully underplayed by Hope Davis, that most believable of actresses. As always, she elevates the performances of her costars and makes what might have been a contrived buddy-comedy conflict seem like the most natural of human events.
– Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
THE MATADOR IS A POPCORN FLICK WITH HEART
You don’t need any tequila to enjoy this movie.
– Mark Daniell, Jam Movies
GRADE A – A MASTERPIECE
It’s a simple story about an assassin who just can’t kill anymore and the businessman down on his luck; they get together to help each other out and live the life they were always supposed to live. That’s what THE MATADOR is basically all about; there are a few twists and turns, a few dead people, a happy couple, a desperate killer, and some good laughs – well, just watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean. There’s great chemistry between Greg and Pierce, they really seem to have a love/hate relationship. The only thing I don’t like is Pierce has a mustache, and for some reason, I can’t get over that; it just doesn’t look right. But if that’s the only complaint, then I think we’ve got ourselves a good movie.
– Dick Stevens, Latino Review
THE MATADOR is the story of hitman Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan in an absolutely electric performance) who’s a little burned out and befriends businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in Mexico City and realizes that he’s his only friend. The movie proves to be humorous, surprising, energetic, and intelligent enough to elevate a familiar basic premise to something extremely enjoyable. The writing is sharp and witty, filled with hilarious moments of surprise, discomfort, and depression. Perhaps the landmark iconic scene in the film, where Brosnan walks through a hotel lobby in his underwear and boots into a swimming pool, comes together with a near-perfect combination of music, direction, and Brosnan’s performance. This is a real showcase role for Pierce Brosnan and he fills it tremendously well, making me think about what each one of his James Bond movies could have been The reset of the cast fills the movie out nicely, Greg Kinnear in good-acting mode rather than annoying-prick mode that he sometimes slips into with his typical characters, and Hope Davis bringing a lot to her role as the wife Bean. After Kinnear and Brosnan meet for this intense few days down in Mexio City, the movie cuts to six months later where Kinnear has grown a brosnan-esque mustache and we see the effect of strong>Pierce Brosnan’s character on him. The energy that somehow transfers when you meet someone exactly opposite of you is a really cool thread through the second half of the film. There’s a lot of tension in the film even though director Richard Shepard refuses to show us the traditionally tense moments in a hitman film. We already know all that stuff, we’ve seen important men taken out by sniper fire hundreds of times. Instead, he works on that audience knowledge to create tension on the possibility of those traditional moments rearing their ugly heads. Uh oh, two characters are talking in front of an open window, will a bullet come through there right before they divulge important information? The movie plays masterfully well with those ideas and keeps you engaged until the credits roll. So in summation, I liked this movie a lot. It was great fun and I really hope it does well so the Broccoli family will see what they have wasted with what could have been the best Bond since Connery.
– Cinema Strikes Back.com
THE MATADOR IS AN UNUSUALLY COMIC AND MOVING HIT MAN THRILLER
– Los Angeles Daily News
THE MATADOR IS LOST IN TRANSLATION SET IN MEXICO CITY WITH GREG KINNEAR IN THE SCARLETT JOHANSSON ROLE
– Ruth Stein, San Francisco Chronicle
THE MATADOR is MADLY POPULAR — Seattle Weekly
MADE WAVES -- NY Daily News
5 OUT OF 5 STARS — Ain’t it Cool News
BROSNAN IS VERY FUNNY — NY Post
BEST SIGHT GAG FROM FILMS AT SUNDANCE: PIERCE BROSNAN CLAD ONLY IN A BLACK SPEEDO AND MATCHING ANKLE BOOTS MARCHING DRUNKENLY THROUGH A HOTEL IN THE LARKY COMIC THRILLER THE MATADOR — People Magazine
CHIEF AMONG THE FILM’S PLEASURES IS A DELICIOUSLY UNINHIBITED PERFORMANCE BY PIERCE BROSNAN – Screen International
THE MATADOR IS ODDLY AND DARKLY FUNNY WITH A HINT OF SADNESS. BROSNAN IS A DELIGHT — E Insiders
THE BEST FILM I SAW AT SUNDANCE — SportsIllustrated.com