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The Matador

Bond, Unplugged and Unhinged

After being unceremoniously ousted from his ten year tenure as incomparable secret agent James Bond, Pierce Brosnan no doubt was in need of a bit of a palate cleansing. Acting suave and debonair for ten years would drag anyone down. What better way to cleanse the palate than to play the crass, burnt out assassin, Julian Noble in The Matador.

If James Bond had a soul or a conscience, he could have been Julian Noble. Noble's existence consists of drinking himself into a stupor day and night, banging lovely (or not so lovely) ladies left and right, and plugging an unsuspecting target in the head every now and then. Not a bad gig really, but Noble's life is essentially empty, shallow, and friendless…and it's getting to him after 20 plus years.

Fortunately for Julian, desperate salesman, Danny Wright virtually falls into his lap in Mexico City, providing a stark reminder of just how empty his life is and creating a surprising opportunity for Julian to make a friend. For Danny, Julian provides an exciting entrée into a world he's only read about in books or on the big screen. Thus, an unlikely friendship (partnership?) is formed.

While Brosnan has always been charming as James Bond, his turn as the alcoholic, embittered Noble easily surpasses any of his performances as Bond. Brosnan does a wonderful job of playing Noble as markedly misanthropic and world weary. His life is a series of flights to various exotic locales and all too brief overnight stays at one hotel after another. Somehow Brosnan manages to imbue Noble with a modicum of soul. Ultimately, this is what makes Noble redeemable.

Holding his own with Brosnan is Greg Kinnear as Danny Wright. Danny has a wife, a home, and all the trappings of the stability so woefully lacking in Julian. But, it becomes apparent his situation is a bit more precarious. Danny desperately needs to win a contract with a client in Mexico City. Kinnear convincingly conveys this desperation and a charming naïveté when it comes to Julian and his "profession".

The Matador is the best film I've seen in 2006. Granted, 2006 has just begun, but hopefully writer/director Richard Shepard's latest is a portent of more high quality films to come in the New Year. Shephard manages to coax excellent performances out of a solid cast and assemble a riotously entertaining comedy with heart in The Matador.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars