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When a traveling salesman, Danny Wright, accidentally meets up with Julian Noble, a hit man, at a Mexico City bar, their subsequent evening together intertwines their lives in an unexpected, but lasting bond.
For more about The Matador and the The Matador Blu-ray release, see the The Matador Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 27, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Adam Scott, Roberto Sosa (I), Philip Baker Hall
Director: Richard Shepard
» See full cast & crew
The Matador Blu-ray Review
There's no bull in this exceptionally strange and wonderful film.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 27, 2010
Is Pierce Brosnan the new Cary Grant? Like Grant, Brosnan has too good to be true looks, a suave demeanor and an often unflappable persona. But there has also been, like Grant, an aura of the not quite real about the actor. One of my favorite quotes about Grant ostensibly came from Frances Farmer, in her supposed autobiography (it was mostly ghostwritten after her death, though this particular quote has the ring of the real Farmer about it), where, in remembering working with the actor in The Toast of New York, she said he was "Cary Grant playing Cary Grant playing Cary Grant." In fact, that plastic veneer was varnished over Grant throughout most of his screen career, even in his most appealing performances, with a couple of notable exceptions. In None but the Lonely Heart (interestingly, written and directed by Farmer's former lover Clifford Odets) and, much later, Charade (as well as to a certain extent Father Goose), Grant let his actorly hair down a little bit and let us peer into the real person hidden underneath the dashing good looks and impeccable diction. If the early phase of Brosnan's career was notably Grant-like, it's to the actor's credit that post-Bond especially he's shown greater and greater range, caring less and less about his dashing good looks and impeccable diction. In one surprising portrayal after another, Brosnan has proven himself equally adept at drama and comedy, and he's lost some of the patently plastic aspects that colored everything from Remington Steel to his days as 007. Somewhat lost in this later career wash of excellent work was the 2006 film The Matador, a peculiar little outing that has all the makings of a cult item but which has yet to really find its niche audience. Perhaps this new Blu-ray can help ameliorate that problem, because there's a lot to like in this idiosyncratic piece, not the least of which is Brosnan's take on an aging and questioning professional assassin who is caught in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
It would be tempting perhaps to state the Brosnan, as hitman Julian Noble, and Greg Kinnear, as businessman Danny Wright, are playing against type, but what's actually so fascinating in The Matador is that both actors are playing almost entirely to type, although with the ragged edges of real life prominently showing. Brosnan's Julian is a deeply disturbed man who is desperately seeking a way out of his chosen occupation, and when through an awkward series of events he befriends down on his luck "regular Joe" Danny, the two click in a most unexpected way. Both of these characters are deeply damaged, wounded souls, and if misery loves company, these two are the most miserable "odd couple" in a long, long time. But what sets The Matador apart from other strange bedfellows pairings is that, unlike director Richard Shepard's The Hunting Party, the laughs here actually work, and Shepard doesn't attempt to beat the audience over the head with either hilarity or pathos. In fact, this film is so tonally ambivalent that I'd be hard pressed to categorize it in any recognizable genre, and, despite the rather formidable odds against it, that's exactly why it works so much of the time.
Brosnan is a minor revelation in this role. With a haggard and hang-dog expression, half shaven, often half dressed, Julian wanders through his Mexico City hotel like the ghost of Jacob Marley, desperately seeking redemption when none is to be had. The Matador is full of little moments like Julian bursting through the hotel lobby in a Speedo and fashionable boots, and ending in a pool which just happens to be shark infested. It's a WTF? moment, but one which effortlessly blends the surreal with a very menacing real in an unforgettable manner.
As odd as The Matador is, the basic premise of the film, one of friendship between two completely disparate personalities both in need of some kind of redemptive connection, is the stuff of myriad cliché-ridden attempts. The Matador manages to succeed where so many others have failed by simply defying expectations at virtually every turn. In fact, once Julian has confessed his real occupation to Danny, and proven that he's telling the truth in a wonderfully staged sequence, if you're a "good guesser" who always divines a film's twist before it actually shows up on screen, your mental cogs will be working overtime to figure out how a hitman will play into Danny's business affairs. And yet, once again Shepard not only refuses to go there, he never even fully reveals where he goes. The second act of the film ends with a slow fade, a remarkable choice in a frequently remarkable film.
So many films come down the pike which seem to be prefabricated from the same plastic mold. In fact The Matador may have failed to ignite the box office for the very fact that it simply refuses to be the "same old, same old." With completely engaging performances by Brosnan, Kinnear (and Hope Davis as Kinnear's oddly endearing wife), The Matador is one of the freshest films in recent memory. Years ago my wife and I were cleaning out an old storage cabinet and she came upon a set of juggling balls and right there starting juggling them. I had been married to this woman for years at that point and had never known about this "hidden talent." Needless to say, I was a little surprised, shocked and just slightly giddy with hilarity. Chances are you'll feel the same way watching The Matador, where Pierce Brosnan is most definitely not playing Pierce Brosnan playing Pierce Brosnan playing Pierce Brosnan.
The Matador Blu-ray, Video Quality
For the most part, The Matador looks sharp as a picador's lance on this AVC encoded 1080p Blu-ray in 2.35:1. Colors are incredibly vivid and brilliantly saturated, and fine detail is excellent throughout the film. Shepard supposedly utilizes a lot of different locales (some with brief establishing shots), but in actuality the film was shot mostly in Mexico City, which stands in for various world locations. This is an exceptionally brightly colored film, with one of the most variegated palettes in recent memory, and the Blu-ray reproduces that spectrum effortlessly. The only problem with this video presentation is some brief aliasing and some momentary shimmer which crops up on various geometric patterns. You'll notice it most especially on the horizontal patterns in the racetrack during the film's climax. Otherwise, this is a sparklingly effective hi-def presentation that provides a surprising wealth of visual information to enjoy.
The Matador Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is a moment in the opening scenes of The Matador which will throw most audiophiles for a complete jolting loop, in a good way. I won't spoil it for you, other than to say it's probably the showiest moment that The Matador's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (not Dolby TrueHD 5.1 as the insert states) mix provides in the way of LFE, but the good news is, this is a very well realized mix that has an abundance of immersive detail in matters both large and small. From the confines of the Mexico City lobby and bar, we hear conversations and ambient noises spill in from the surrounds. In the bullfighting sequence, that immersion becomes even more noticeable with both crowd noises and the actual bullfight zinging through the soundfield. Dialogue is always crisp and clear and both the underscore and source cues are very well mixed into the proceedings. The Matador isn't always as bombastic as the moment alluded to above, but it provides great depth and nuance throughout the film, with spot on fidelity and excellent dynamic range.
The Matador Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
I personally would have loved some more in-depth supplements for this peculiar little film, but what's here is fine as far as it goes:
The Matador Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you're like I am, you crave something unexpected, and you'll get that in spades in The Matador. While there are a few predictable beats along the way, they're very few and far between, and this film presents one of the unlikeliest odd couples ever in the duo of Brosnan and Kinnear. Funny, sad, disturbing and just plain out there, The Matador is Highly Recommended.
The Matador Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Harsh Times, The Matador, Derailed Announced on Blu-ray - September 16, 2010
Through a retailer alert, Vivendi Visual Entertainment has announced three catalog films for release on Blu-ray in December: Harsh Times (starring Christian Bale) on the 7th, The Matador (starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear) on the 21st, and Derailed (starring ...
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