starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall
written and directed by Richard Shepard
by Walter Chaw Wearing a sleazebag moustache and an ugly print shirt, Pierce Brosnan watches a bartender shake his drink instead of stirring it and the film slows down and blurs accordingly. It's post-modernism as gauzy, lazy hallucination--a swoon that suggests a minor, nearly-imperceptible tremor in reality and the only moment in which hyphenate Richard Shepard acknowledges the irony of the former 007's presence in another licensed-to-kill role as assassin-for-hire Julian Noble. Fond of bottomless tequila and "sucky-fucky" instead of "blushy-blushy," Noble is an unctuous, pathetic character. In any other film, he'd be selling office-furniture and drowning his sorrows in booze and floozies, wondering why nobody's calling on his birthday. On a fateful trip to Mexico, Julian intersects with Danny (Greg Kinnear), a suit-and-tie salesman trying desperately to secure an all-important contract so that his mousy wife (Hope Davis, cast against type as a kind person) doesn't droop into the wallpaper. A lightning-felled tree crashes through Danny's kitchen, no less a harbinger of calamitous change than Julian turning up on his doorstep months later with an offer Danny can't refuse. It's a comedy of murderous Freudian manners in the vogue of Grosse Point Blank or "The Sopranos": there's nothing particularly original about an odd-couple in a thriller nor, even, a thug having an existential crisis while involving Ward Cleaver in his maleficent deeds. The Matador, then, would do well to bring something new to the conversation, but instead, it functions as a workmanlike bit of easy entertainment. Neither challenging nor incompetent, the picture isn't courageous enough to fail and thus not courageous enough to be a masterpiece. It's a studiously inoffensive diversion for an audience of a certain age; for a shot of the real stuff, try Ripley's Game.