It’s only natural that after being associated with a certain character or series of roles that an actor would want to branch out, even go so far as to seek out the polar opposite of that with with they are associated (whether it be emerging artists or those later in their career). However when you’re an actor essentially synonymous with charm and warmth, how removing that entirely could amount to anything of any real importance I’m not sure.
Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) is an assassin unraveling. During a trip to Mexico he meets down-and-out businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) with whom he strikes up an awkward friendship, due in part to the existential crisis Julian is experiencing. After freezing during an assignment, a hit is put out on him and having no home, he flees to Danny and his wife Bean (Hope Davis) in the hopes that they can help him.
Brosnan does his best to work with the source material but in trying to be something other than his usual persona, for the most part he loses the charisma he usually brings to a role. Although the script and character dictates he be somewhat inept, it fails to completely add up, resulting in a confusing ‘other’ being presented. He is a lonely alcoholic but so unbalanced that why anyone would consider him for the type of work he does, even after a demonstration, is the best joke of all. Overall there is an extreme lack of credibility to everything he touches, resulting in a general impotence throughout (something Julian ironically comments is of the gravest seriousness).
Kinnear is ineffectual at best, limited in scope to a witless and generally self-pitying sidekick. He too like Brosnan, loses the empathy and affability he so often infuses into equally as silly characters elsewhere. Davis however takes the biggest hit, being relegated to the role of lethargic wife and background character, completely underutilizing her talents.
The design and feel of the film is sleek but this is not necessarily a positive factor. Danny blends into the atmosphere whereas Brosnan stands out even when it comes to a wardrobe perspective. An interest consideration, as one would expect a hitman to blend in more so and it does heighten the sense that Julian is descending further and further into the abyss yet the previously mentioned lack of believability means we just can’t buy into the fantasy that he was ever more than this.
Richard Shepard the writer/director of this venture does little to assuage the damage, with overtly simplistic dialogue, so much so that it is borders on the crass and charmless. From the very beginning, it is one phallic joke after another, never quite hitting the mark even in a purille sense. It is always terse, but never concise.
The main issue is analogous to what has become of cable television, once a veritable bastion of the wonderfully macarbe, an outrageous plot point without any execution now often suffices. Similarly here, the idea and Brosnan’s casting is in spirit, an interesting premise, it never really finds its feet.
John Cusack in ‘Gross Point Blank’ succeeded in creating an artful and imaginative facet to such a character, but The Matador is incapable of emulating such a coup the way in which it’s presented here.
“Aren’t we so cosmopolitan, having a hitman stay over” Bean gushes. Perhaps, but the reality turned out to be entirely mundane.