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Richard Shepard
Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Adam Scott, Portia Dawson, William Raymond
Writing Credits:
Richard Shepard

A hitman and a salesman walk into a bar ...

Pierce Brosnan is outstanding as an international hit man falling apart at the seams in Richard Shepard's dark comedy The Matador. Brosnan, riffing on his success playing the very well groomed and genteel James Bond and Remington Steele, stars as Julian Noble, a no-longer-noble hit man who spends his free time getting drunk and chasing impossibly young skirts.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$92.312 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.570 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 7/4/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Richard Shepard
• Audio Commentary with Director Richard Shepard and Actors Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear
• “Making The Matador” Featurette
• Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “The Business & the Treatment: Feature Radio Programs Discuss The Matador
• TV Commercial
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Matador (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 22, 2006)

Will Pierce Brosnan ever escape the shadow of James Bond? Probably not, but he doesn’t appear content to rest on his laurels. In The Matador, he takes on a character who subverts our Bondian notions of the actor.

Brosnan plays Julian Noble, a hit man who lives a nomadic existence. On a job in Mexico, he realizes it’s his birthday and does some soul-searching about his lonely lifestyle. We also meet Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a Denver-based struggling businessman married to Bean (Hope Davis) who also heads to Mexico for work. Both cross paths in a bar and become pals after some awkwardness due to Julian’s drunken manner.

This friendship continues even after Julian reveals his line of work to Danny. However, things go downhill when Julian tries to recruit Danny to help him with a job, and the relationship apparently ends there. The movie then leaps ahead six months and shows us how the pair reunite and what happens from there.

During his audio commentary, writer/director Richard Shepard claims that he didn’t write the flick with Brosnan in mind. I believe him, especially since he mentions ways he attempted to lessen the Bond comparison. Nonetheless, casting Brosnan in the lead makes for an interesting twist that wouldn’t come with other actors. Julian acts as a darker, much less likable version of James Bond. He displays many of the same characteristics – womanizing, drinking – but pulls them off in a much seedier manner. After all, we never saw Bond leering at pubescent Mexican schoolgirls.

Brosnan launches himself into the part with gusto. He doesn’t shy away from the character’s nastier side; indeed, he seems to revel in those elements. The script throws him plenty of amusingly crass lines to read, and Brosnan invests them with both wit and menace. Julian isn’t a particularly frightening character most of the time, but when pushed, we see his tougher side come out, and that adds an edge to even the goofier comic scenes.

Besides, who can resist the sight of the one-time 007 trading playground barbs with a pre-teen boy? There’s something oddly delightful about the way Brosnan snarls “smell ya – shouldn’t have to tell ya!” at the lad. The actor makes a very good impression in the part.

He also benefits from terrific chemistry with Kinnear. The two play many of their scenes together, so though Matador doesn’t quite veer into true “buddy flick” territory, it exhibits many of the same elements. Kinnear gets the less showy role of the pair, but he brings charm and life to the part, and he meshes well with the fiery Brosnan.

As for the rest of the flick, it has a fair amount going for it, but I wouldn’t have wanted to see it made with less talented actors. Matador shows a serious Tarantino influence via its style, dialogue and music. With lesser performers, it probably would have come off as just another Tarantino rip-off, but with Brosnan and Kinnear at the forefront, it becomes more satisfying. The film balances comedy and darkness to turn into an entertaining concoction.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Matador appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not without concerns, the transfer seemed consistently satisfying.

Few issues came from sharpness. Some light edge enhancement occasionally made wide shots a little soft, but those instances didn’t occur frequently. The majority of the flick offered good clarity and delineation. I noticed no signs of shimmering or jagged edges, and very few source flaws appeared. I saw a couple of tiny specks and nothing else.

Matador went with a loud, almost garish palette at times, and the DVD replicated those colors well. It consistently made the hues vibrant and full. Blacks were rich and tight, while shadows seemed clear and appropriately visible. Only the minor softness and specks knocked this transfer below “A” territory.

I also thought that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Matador proved effective. Much of the time the soundfield remained fairly subdued. It usually went with general environmental information and also added good stereo imaging for the music. Occasionally it kicked into higher gear, though, and those scenes added punch. For instance, the storm segment early in the film used all five speakers well, and a few other louder pieces were successful. This wasn’t an incredibly active mix, but it spread out when necessary.

Audio quality was aces. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other problems. Music was tight and lively, and the score also showed good range. Effects presented accurate elements that were clear and concise. Bass response appeared deep and powerful at times. This was a strong mix.

As we move to the DVD’s extras, we open with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director Richard Shepard via a running, screen-specific discussion. And a chatty one at that, as Shepard gives us a fine look at his film.

Shepard gets into the development of the project and how he involved Brosnan. We learn about other casting choices, shooting the whole thing in Mexico, editing and cut sequences, music and song choice, visual design, effects, and a mix of production choices. Shepard rarely takes a breath in this rapid-paced discussion. He provides a frank appraisal of the production and makes it all entertaining. Plenty of good tales appear as he relates concerns exhibited by the actors as well as interesting elements like the changes made to the script to drop Bond connections. This turns into a fine look at the flick.

For the second commentary, we hear from Shepard and actors Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Expect to hear a lot of the same material found in Shepard’s solo track. The subjects remain virtually the same, though the actors manage to add their own perspectives to matters.

They do so less frequently than I’d like, however. Shepard takes on the lion’s share of the chat and provides many of the same notes. Kinnear and Brosnan chime in with decent regularity and throw out some nice stories, but I feel we don’t learn much in the way of new material. In addition, as the film progresses, we get more and more happy talk and less information. The commentary remains a light and fun affair that provides some laughs, but as a look at the film’s creation, it pales in comparison to Shepard’s excellent solo track.

A short featurette called Making The Matador comes next. This seven-minute and 20-second piece includes movie bits, shots from the set, and remarks from Brosnan, Kinnear, Shepard and actor Hope Davis. They tell us a little about the story and the production. Should you expect anything informative and broader than the usual glorified trailer? Nope. It throws out a few moderately interesting behind the scenes glimpses, but it acts just to sell the movie.

11 Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 16 minutes and 18 seconds. A couple of the more interesting ones show Julian and Danny in their separate lives on the way to Mexico. I especially like the airport scene in which Julian tries to bang an airport waitress.

The other sequences seem interesting though not quite as good. We see Danny attempt to convince Julian he’s not beyond redemption and other aspects of their interactions in Mexico. We also get longer takes on the order to kill Julian and some other minor extensions. These range from pretty good to fairly dull.

We can view these with or without commentary from Shepard. Chatty as always, he delivers many more good notes about the production and also makes sure we know why the scenes failed to make the final film. He adds to our understanding of the work.

Some audio programs appear next. The Business & the Treatment: Feature Radio Programs Discuss The Matador splits into two shows. “Sundance Rollercoaster” from NPR’s The Treatment comes first and depicts Shepard’s experiences at the festival as he tried to find a buyer for the film. This offers a good look at all the hoops through which indies have to jump to sell their films. I especially like the funny bit in which Shepard half-jokingly threatens to kill Harvey Weinstein if he edits the movie.

After that we find a chat between Shepard and critic Elvis Mitchell on KCRW’s The Treatment. This provides a general discussion of the film. There’s not much new if you’ve listened to the commentaries. It seems a little more introspective with info about themes and interpretation, but plenty of the same notes get regurgitated.

The main new element comes from Shepard’s reflections on his first movie, 1991’s The Linguine Incident. David Bowie starred in it, so as a Bowie fan, I knew of it although I never saw it. Shepard discusses the mistakes he made in its creations and how they affected his career. He also provides another threat at a producer; he better hope none of these guys dies under suspicious circumstances. Other than the Linguine elements, this is an average chat. It’s fine on its own but not very useful in conjunction with the other pieces.

The set includes the theatrical trailer for Matador as well as a TV Spot. In addition, a few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Transamerica, Hoodwinked, Mrs. Henderson Presents and The Libertine.

Largely due to solid acting from its leads, The Matador offers a quality piece of entertainment. It keeps us interested and involved through its offbeat story and manages to present real emotion as well. The DVD features very good picture and audio along with some informative and interesting supplements. This is a good movie and a quality DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2142 Stars Number of Votes: 14
2 3:
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