His name is Osnard. Andy Osnard. An arrogant yet sly British spy with a taste for liquor, fine linen suits, and nymphomaniac diplomats in skirts. He picks safes, drives nice cars and is oh so charming. Of course, there is no one more qualified to play Osnard than “Mr. Shaken-not-stirred” himself, Pierce Brosnan.
British spies, manufactured political conspiracies and sexual innuendos attempt to coalesce in John Boorman’s silly, new satiric political thriller/off-beat drama “The Tailor of Panama.” An entertaining, mostly well-acted and beautifully shot film, the paper-thin plot and silly characterizations make it another forgettable film that you’ll probably end up watching on a cross-country flight. This one isn’t worth a $7.50 ticket, but perhaps a $5 headset rental if you don’t have a good book to read.
As with Boorman’s last film, “The General,” which I must admit I walked out of, “The Tailor of Panama” eventually rings hollow due to its uneven and oscillating tone. Boorman tries to straddle the line between gripping political thriller and funny offbeat drama, but really doesn’t succeed in claiming either. We’re told Panama is a land of corruption (“a Casablanca without the heroes” as one character puts it), yet we never see any brutal government acts. The film features Osnard strutting all his coquettish, country club debonair on some unsuspecting dame only to cut to a high-powered political deal being brokered under grave circumstances or a computer-simulated helicopter attack. The characters run around with flustered and concerned faces; but if they fail it only seems that they’ll go back to their wood-paneled club just slightly disappointed and embarrassed at a loss of face.
Based on a John le CarrŽ novel, the story revolves around an agent from the British Embassy (Osnard) trying to get his hands on information about the security of the Panama Canal. Recently given over to the Panamanians by the United States, Osnard consults his fellow expatriate and renowned tailor to Panama City’s rich and famous, Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), for information on the “silent conspiracy” movement that is reportedly bent on taking over the country. When word comes out that the new and unstable Panamanian government is going to sell the canal based on information unknowingly provided by Pendel’s wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), Osnard attempts to engineer a military intervention for ignoble reasons. What follows is a half-hearted free-for-all where those with benevolent intentions collide with those with only the most selfish ones.
With its uppity setting in British gentlemen clubs and its air of humorous deception, the film brings to mind a slightly more sinister version of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” As both a spy and the ultimate gentleman con man, Brosnan’s character is fun to watch even if all his lines sound entirely scripted and his arrogance contrived. Basically a slimier and less noble James Bond, his character is too shallow to root for and too unbelievable to jeer. Rush acts his role with great intensity, yet this passion sometimes seems out of place amid all the inconsequence of the film.
Boorman needs to go home and watch an old tape of “Deliverance.” Now there was a film of his that had dimension and purpose.