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Miramax Pictures presents
The Matador (2005)

"My business is my pleasure."
- Julian (Pierce Brosnan)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: July 05, 2006

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear
Other Stars: Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Dylan Baker, William Raymond, Adam Scott
Director: Richard Shepard

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and language
Run Time: 01h:37m:23s
Release Date: July 04, 2006
UPC: 796019791595
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A-B+ B-

DVD Review

I had heard things about The Matador during its brief theatrical run, but not enough to really get a handle on what it was about. The buzz was very positive, the marketing pitch made it seem a little eccentric, and word was Pierce Brosnan went against the Bond grain playing a cocksure and slightly scruffy hitman who finds himself not quite as good or confident as he used to be.

That's really about all the knowledge I carried into writer/director Richard Shepard's indie film, which is kind of unusual. In this day and age of being inundated with full plots and far too much detail about seemingly every film, it was refreshing to go in somewhat blind on this one, and maybe that's why The Matador caught me off guard. So if you've read other reviews, you may know the plot already, but if, like me, you're clueless about this one and wondering what it's all about, I'm going to be intentionally vague about the particulars (something the artwork and back cover seem to be deadset against).

You'll thank me later, I think.

Yes, Brosnan is the pure antithesis of Bond as Julian Noble, looking more like the hungover assassin younger brother of Dennis Farina than a suave superspy, and that strange juxtaposition is what draws us in. In Julian's words, he is a "magnificently cold moron" and a "complete mess"—who at one point literally passes out face first in a pile of donkey excrement—bounding around the globe carrying out hits for his mysterious employers. Brosnan, all stubble and bravado, plays Julian as a sex-addicted, in-demand killer who suddenly finds himself falling out of favor as age and a few personal issues threaten his livelihood and life.

A good portion of the film is an odd buddy picture of sorts, with Julian crossing paths with naïve businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) in Mexico City. The two forge an unorthodox, opposites-attract relationship. The sequences with Brosnan and Kinnear are wonderful, full of wry comedic dialogue and bouts of drama, as writer/director Shepard exhibits the need to rapidly shift gears back-and-forth, making this an extremely difficult film to categorize. As things move into the third act, the tone takes yet another turn, never quite into the realm of believability, but full of enough serpentine moves to make it interesting, in part because of the relationship between Kinnear and Brosnan.

From a creative standpoint, it's rarely dull, as Shepard fills the screen with rich, bold colors, strange camera angles, and the occasional bit of frenetic editing, and peppers the soundtrack with such diverse artists as The Jam, Tom Jones, Asia, The Cramps, and The Killers, all of whose songs punctuate a given scene with the right degree of emotional zing. Though some of the dramatic elements don't play quite as well as the humor does, as an overall package, Shepard's approach is kinetic and very active, borrowing perhaps a little from the Tarantino film school and, in conjunction with the interplay between Brosnan and Kinnear, making this a very watchable, enjoyably different kind of film.

How's that for intentionally vague? Fun stuff.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Just an absolutely beautiful 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer here, loaded with bright, vivid colors and deep blacks throughout. Aside from a few extremely minor instances of edge softness, image clarity is sharp and extremely well-delineated.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This is a rather subtle Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, because much of the film doesn't really abuse the format. The mix is moderately aggressive when it needs to be, with a fair amount of movement across the front channels; though it really broadens the feel of the soundstage, there isn't a sense that the mix overshadows the film. Voice quality is clear, and the frequent songs have a full-bodied feel to them, and elements like a clap of thunder or pounding bull hooves pay off dramatically with unexpectedly loud subwoofer bursts that seem to come out of nowhere.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Transamerica, Hoodwinked, Mrs. Henderson Presents, The Libertine
1 TV Spots/Teasers
11 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Richard Shepard, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio interviews
Extras Review: Extras include a pair of commentaries, both of which feature writer/director Richard Shepard. The first track has him solo, talking pretty much nonstop for the duration about financing, setting the tone with music or the use of what he refers as an "overexploited" scene used in advertising that he once found funny. Shepard has a good line of talk going here, and while it isn't all inherently fascinating, he exhibits a fairly contagious enthusiasm for his film. The second commentary pairs up Shepard with actors Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan, and seems fairly unnecessary. The conversation is friendly and casual, with the director dominating with more of the same vim and vigor while Brosnan and Kinnear interject anecdotes here and there. The solo track is the way to go if you feel compelled to listen to either.

Next up is a fluffy EPK entitled Making The Matador (07m:20s), full of the usual clips and interviews that could be about almost any film, as well as a set of eleven deleted scenes (16m:18s) available with optional Richard Shepard commentary. The commentary reveals most bits were cut strictly for timing or repetition of material, and the extended sex club scene features some more quick skin and a blink-and-you-miss-it Shepard cameo. Under the heading Director Richard Shepard On The Radio come two audio clips, with Sundance Rollercoaster from NPR's The Business and Richard Shepard On KCRW's The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell.

Thing wrap with a few trailers, while the film itself is cut into 22 chapters with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Don't be fooled by the bad cover art for this one, because what's inside is an odd mix of comedy and drama that is quirky, colorful, and buttressed by a great chemistry between Brosnan and Kinnear. The less you know about the plot particulars (aside from the very basics) the better, which means avoid the back cover blurb.

Highly recommended

 


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