For an actor, few ideas are more dreaded that that of being typecast: so set in a certain role that the audience refuses to acknowledge you in other roles. Just ask Mark Hamill who still is recognized as space-age wunderkind Luke Skywalker. And can Neil Patrick Harris walk down the street without some idiot yelling out, “Hey, Doogie Howser! Shouldn’t you be in the OR?” Certainly not.
So what does Pierce Brosnan, of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, do to escape the Hollywood demon that is typecasting in his newest movie, “The Matador”? Simple – he does a complete turnaround and creates a hilariously over-the-top performance that is about as far from his secret spy self as humanly possible.
Would-be-protagonist Julian Noble could be Bond, if Bond chain-smoked, grew a small, sleazy mustache and screwed every woman that happened to walk his way. As the movie opens we see Brosnan not sneaking into some Russian army base, but applying silver toenail polish as a beautiful naked woman lies next to him. Things only get more bizarre from there, as Noble is revealed to be a hit man for hire by a number of large, unnamed corporations. The film’s high mark occurs when Brosnan walks through his hotel lobby, beer and cigarette in hand, wearing nothing more than a Speedo (much to the shock of the lobby patrons).
On the opposite side of spectrum lies Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a struggling salesman who is lovingly supported by his wife Carolyn “Bean” Wright (Hope Davis). Danny takes off to Mexico in order to attempt to close a deal and end his personal financial recession. When Noble reveals his occupation to Wright, he’s intrigued and excited, albeit it a bit skeptical, and the two become friends. The two go about their regular lives until Wright is awakened by Noble late one December night, with the former exclaiming that he’s going through a midlife crisis of sorts, and needs his friend’s help to end it before his bosses end him.
Brosnan deserves all of the accolades here for portraying Noble as a washed-up, sleazy assassin who has nothing to live for except for his next margarita. Breaking the shackles of “007,” Brosnan shows us a deeper side in what might be his best performance to date. He creates an intricate anti-hero that the audience loves, but would never want to actually meet. Kinnear and Davis hold their own too, being the classic foils, but with personas and emotions that are all their own.
The only real point where the movie suffers occurs with the pacing of the narrative. It seems that the two spend so much time on exposition that we never really get a sense of any greater conflict when it comes to the structure of the plot. But it’s minor snag, really, as “The Matador” gives Brosnan a chance to revoke his license to kill – one half-naked stroll through a hotel lobby at a time.