James Bond is a great gig if you can get it, but the question becomes will you ever be known as anything else? In the cases of Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore, the answer is a resounding no… not so much. Sean Connery on the other hand, pulled it off nicely, because he’s a titan. With an ego the size of Wales and a larger-than-life personality, Connery’s presence is far bigger than the bounds of typecasting that have trapped lesser actors. Recently dispatched from the post, former 007 Pierce Brosnan stares this dilemma in the face and swiftly crushes it like a bug. Brosnan’s unexpected performance in this years’ most original comedy, “The Matador,” is absolutely genius, serving notice to anyone interested that Brosnan will most definitely be sticking around.
“The Matador’s” screenplay and story line, from writer/director Richard Shepard, are a refreshing change in this lackluster year for comedy. Hollywood’s dreary roster of funny movies in 2005 was particularly disappointing; it’s hard to take solace in the wildly successful and thoroughly mediocre “40 Year Old Virgin” and “Wedding Crashers.” “The Matador,” is hilarious and fresh. With a new twist on the hired killer, it is a welcome departure from the recent deluge of uninspired formula comedies.
Brilliantly cast, “The Matador” crackles with obscenely good performances from both Brosnan and costar Greg Kinnear. The under-used Kinnear has come a long way since his days on “Talk Soup” to become one of Hollywood’s most capable supporting actors. Add the off-beat Hope Davis (“About Schmidt”) and Phillip Baker Hall (“Magnolia”) in the mix, and “The Matador” has an unstoppable ensemble, perfect for the story of an aging assassin distracted by a mid-life crisis who befriends an everyman desperate for a lucky break.
Brosnan is fantastic as professional assassin Julian Noble. His trademark swagger and charm are still evident but they are combined here, to great effect, with an inspired comedic timing and a marvelously debauched character. Pierce Brosnan is an absolute riot, giving a landmark performance that should put Bond where it belongs–on a varied list of Brosnan’s roles, the best of which, it seems, may be yet to come. The newest Agent 007, Daniel Craig (“Munich”), should be paying particularly close attention to his predecessor at the moment, as Brosnan’s role in “The Matador” is the blueprint for how to shake off the Bond years and move on to a new chapter of untapped possibilities.
“The Matador” is clever, original and remarkably funny. Although it gets a wide national release today, “The Matador” was one of those “just in time for Oscar contention” limited releases in the last moments of 2005. That makes it the best comedy of last year, but it also sets the bar extremely high for the ‘06, and it should be interesting to see if anybody has the goods to even come close.