Monday, August 31, 2015

Review - The Matador

So, yeah, reviewing the Street Fighter movie wore me out to the point that I really didn't have anything planned for today.

I mean, sure, I have projects I'm working on, and there's always the other Street Fighter movie, and I'm almost at my 600th post, but today...I just hit a wall.  I had nothing really jump out at me as something that would be simple and enjoyable to write about.

Then it hit me.  If I'm trying to make this easy, it means I don't want to try.  I also spotted a movie I watched not too long ago and completely forgot to review while it was still fresh in my mind.  Strangely enough, I do remember almost all of it pretty clearly, so I think I'll discuss it.

Here it is, the best movie to ever star Pierce Brosnan.

Before we start, I want to point out that the cover of this movie is extremely misleading.  There's really only one woman in the movie who can hold a pose like that, and I think the most we ever see if her is asleep in Pierce Brosnan's bed while he decorates his toenails with her toenail polish.

If THAT doesn't set the tone of the review from here on out, I don't know what will.

Pierce Brosnan plays hit man Julian Noble (a great name), a character so unlike James Bond that you'd never believe he ever dressed up in a fancy suit and worked for the Queen.  I remember how after I saw Sean Connery play James Bond, every role afterward felt slightly "Bond-ish" to me, like he always had to hold a bit of that dignity that came with being on Her Majesty's Secret Service.  I think the same thing happens with a lot of action heroes from the 80s and 90s, but here, Pierce Brosnan plays a character so dynamically different from his James Bond persona, I had to remind myself that this was, in fact, Pierce Brosnan, and he did, in fact, once parasurf an iceberg-filled tsunami.

Julian Noble meets average family guy Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in a hotel bar in Mexico City. They're both there on "business," but have difficulty connecting when they first meet.  Danny, after having a few, shares a personal moment involving the death of his son, and Julian cracks a crude joke, ruining the moment.  The next day, however, Julian apologizes and begs Danny for another chance to be his friend, and the two spend more time hanging out together.

Julian eventually confides in Danny that he is, in fact, a hit man, and in an absolutely brilliant scene at a bullfight, he teaches Danny how to plot the murder of a total stranger, picking out a random person in the audience, and then leading Danny in the most terrifying guided tour of Danny's life.  They have a few more fallings out before the trip is done, and seem to leave Mexico City and each other as acquaintances, nothing more.

However, months later, Julian shows up at Danny's doorstep, confesses that Danny is his only friend, and gets to meet Danny's wife, Bean, played by Hope Davis.  It's rather telling that Danny had enough time to tell Bean about Julian that when the two really meet, one of her first questions is, "Did you bring your gun?"

These are three characters who are trying to get their lives back.  Danny and Bean still love each other unquestioningly, but there's doubt in them both about if their family can survive with the painful memories of losing their son.  Bean has a great scene where she tells Danny about the time he first told her she was beautiful.  Julian, currently suffering from panic attacks, has lost his way as a hit man and has, himself, become a target and a "loose end" that needs to be tied up.  He's fascinated by Bean and Danny's love for each other and how they've been able to build a life together (he confesses in one moment that he's "a man without a home.")

In a bad movie, this would be where strangers attack Danny and Bean's house, and Julian needs to help them survive with a huge action sequence.  This is not a bad movie.  Instead, Julian convinces Danny to help him complete "one last job."  It's a simple job at a race track, but it requires two people to pull it off, and Julian reminds Danny, cryptically, that he "owes him."  We don't know why, but Danny does, and it's enough to spirit him away from home to help this man who, you get the impression, might be his only friend outside of work.

This isn't a thriller, it isn't an action movie, and it's not a pure comedy, though there are some very entertaining moments in it.  This is a character study, each character brings something interesting to their role.  Kinnear and Davis play a married couple constantly worried about the future while trying to get past the, well, past.  Danny needs the excitement of meeting someone like Julian to get his mind off his own issues, though he quickly finds himself in over his head.  He has his own secrets from his wife, ones that risk coming out with the return of Julian.  However, we never once doubt his love for his wife, or her love for him, even when she's presented with someone who embodies danger and ruggedness and adventure.  There's no chance she'd be tempted away from Danny, and we know it.

Watching Pierce Brosnan play this character reminds you of just how good an actor he can be when he's given a role that lets him try new things.  Not once would you ever see James Bond this vulnerable.  We see Julian during his high points, and we see him curled up in a ball quivering as his life spirals out of control from him.  We see him so vulnerable and yet in control as he tries (and, in some instances, fails) to do his job.  We see him so paranoid and yet so trusting of this relative stranger to help him take another life.  He's unshaven, coarse, and unwilling to apologize for what he does, yet you see him watching Danny and Bean and know that, deep down, he regrets never being able to have that kind of life.

Simply put, this is the best movie I've ever seen Pierce Brosnan in, and I already liked him a lot.  I liked him in After The Sunset, Goldeneye, Mrs. Doubtfire, Mamma Mia!, and especially in The Thomas Crown Affair, but this one rises to the top because it's something that I, at least, never saw him do before, and that's act like he needs the rest of his cast to help him through a difficult time.

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