The Matador (2006)

Kevin Wong

While the next Bond film is stuck in pre-production as producers search for an A-List Bond girl, Pierce Brosnan is having the last laugh with his new film.

The Matador

Director: Richard Shepard
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Weinstein Company
First date: 2006
US Release Date: 2006-01-06 (Limited release)

If no one quite matched Sean Connery's suave standard as 007, Pierce Brosnan brought a businesslike humor and ease to the part. And while the next Bond film, starring Daniel Craig, is stuck in pre-production as producers search for an A-List Bond girl (three have turned them down), Brosnan is having the last laugh with his new film, The Matador.

He plays Julian Noble, a hitman who favors "corporate gigs." Slick in a morally vacant, sleazy sort of way, Julian exposes his hairy chest, has a slight beer gut, and walks through a hotel lobby in his speedos. He's vaguely charming even as he insults women and children, drinks too much, and executes vicious hit after hit. These killings appear as they usually do in movies about professional assassins: Julian casually walks away as a car explodes in the background. When he kills a woman with a sniper rifle, his action is cruel and efficient, whereupon the film moves on to the next scene.

And yet, despite his cool self-image, Julian's cracks are beginning to show. He travels first class, beds many women, and knows his cocktails, but he's a social maladroit. He's avoided basic emotional needs -- intimacy, family, and friendship -- so long that he no longer has the capacity to feel them. He's the end of Bond, done traveling and killing, and now lost.

At a bar in Mexico City, Julian runs into Danny (Greg Kinnear), who's suffering from the opposite problem. He has a loving wife and is gracious to a fault, but he's professionally mediocre. His current business venture is preceded by failures, and he lacks the professional smarm to be the executive he wants to be.

Their interactions make for some of the best dark comedy in recent memory. When Danny tearfully admits that his young son has been killed in an accident, Julian doesn't know how to respond, so he cracks a dirty joke. Danny's horror makes him regret his mistake, and so he tries to sympathize by inventing a dead wife, mimicking Danny's mourning. Thinking he's befriended Danny at last, Julian invites him to a bullfight, where he confesses his career choice. When Danny doesn't believe him, Julian walks him through a "hit," Danny going along until it starts to look real. At this point, Danny believes Julian and can't believe he's hanging out with him.

If Danny is both enthralled and disgusted by his new friend's brutality, Julian is touched and insulted by Danny's moral compass. When Danny refuses to help Julian carry out a hit, even if it's only to trip and cause a diversion, Julian storms off in a huff. Julian's approach to life, both personal and professional, is aggressively "masculine" in a standard Hollywood sense, but director Richard Shepard strips this sensibility of just enough glamour to show how repulsive and shallow this existence can be.

Danny represents a different type of masculinity: he's a dedicated family man and provider. When Julian comes to fear for his life and has nowhere else to go, he finds Danny's house, where he is offered kindness, hospitality, and even an awkward admiration, despite and because of his shady past. Though Danny worries about exposing his wife Bean (Hope Davis) to this risky personality, she's enchanted, and they both want to believe that Julian is a "nice guy." Her reactions to both men -- tender towards Danny, fascinated by Julian -- highlights the different aspects of maleness they represent.

The film, however, does not keep these two aspects diametrically opposed, and there are hints of a practical reconciliation. Once Julian is embraced by the couple, whom he takes as a new "family," he feels equipped to reciprocate, and Danny, having gained confidence and professional success by the end of the film, emerges a more secure individual.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.