A review of “The Matador” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for violence and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

 

 

          Director Richard Shepard’s comic thriller is an edgy hybrid; a refreshingly tetchy indie wrapped in mainstream clothing.

          Pierce Brosnan sheds his James Bond image once and for all as washed-up hitman (“facilitator of fatalities”) Julian Noble, cleaning up one last job to seal the deal. Years of booze and broads and plain old age have given Julian the shakes; he’s lost his edge and he knows it.

          That niggling fear causes Julian to develop a social conscience, not to mention a desire for the kind of close relationship he hasn’t had the time or inclination for.

          The unwitting target of Julian’s novel warm-and-fuzziness is mild-mannered salesman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), on business in Mexico City to land a major account for a fledging start-up. He and Julian meet uncomfortably at the hotel bar, Julian taking a personal potshot or two and Danny taking offense.

          Filled with an uncharacteristic sense of remorse and hoping to mend fences Julian offers the olive branch in the form of lunch. The two connect over a vague awareness of loneliness and change that both choose to ignore. Ultimately Julian asks for help with his work; what better way to strengthen the bond?

          “Matador” is blessed with a delightful sense of style and a vivid color palette that threatens to overwhelm the narrative but ultimately serves as an intense visual distraction. Its success rests solidly on the chemistry of Brosnan and Kinnear and their ability to put closure on their strangers-in-a-strange-land act without succumbing to comedic or dramatic pitfalls.

Last act veers to a soft and poignant place not in keeping with the project’s dark roots but its twists and turns stay nestled to the right of abstract, toeing that line with finesse.