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The Tailor of Panama(2001)
In this seductive spy thriller based on the best-selling novel by John Le Carre, Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush (Quills, Shine) delivers a dazzling performance as Harry Pendel, an ex- con turned tailor to the rich and infamous and married to smart and sexy Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis - 'Halloween H20', 'True Lies'). Directed by Academy Award -nominee John Boorman ('Hope and Glory', 'Deliverance') and set in steamy Panama, where nothing is what it seems, Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan - 'The World is Not Enough', 'The Thomas Crown Affair'), a suave and ruthless British spy, entices Harry to eavesdropping on the powerful politicians he clothes. But Harry's talent for storytelling compels him to weave an elaborate tale that's not only taken as truth, but sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy everything he treasures most in life.
For more about The Tailor of Panama and the The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray release, see the The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 27, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendan Gleeson, Catherine McCormack, Leonor Varela
Director: John Boorman
» See full cast & crew
The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray Review
A wishy-washy movie makes for a wishy-washy Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 27, 2009
Welcome to Panama: 'Casablanca' without heroes.
Films buffs might be hard-pressed to find a more bland movie-watching experience than The Tailor of Panama. Promising an engrossing spy mystery, the film instead delivers a halfhearted attempt at...something, a hodgepodge of styles and themes that consistently play counter to one another and never really add up to anything worth watching, save for several scenes of excellent, screen-igniting dialogue between the film's two leads. Certainly, there are spy elements involved here; a dangerous game takes shape and, by picture's end, unravels to several dramatic consequences, but the road there is so tedious that it's really hard to care about the outcome -- either on a more sweeping scale or on a personal level as to the matters involving the primary characters -- and the several revelations come more as a reprieve that the film has come to its end than as any sort of breathtaking or otherwise captivating revelations that promise to ingrain the film into the moviegoing public's conscience.
Disgraced MI-6 operative Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan, Married Life) is reassigned to Panama -- where the Canal has recently been turned over to Panamanian control -- where he engages one of only several hundred British nationals living in the Central American nation for the purpose of intelligence gathering pertaining to both the Canal and the political upheaval that marks the post-Noriega era. He turns to a tailor named Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush, Pirates of the Caribbean) who clothes Panama's wealthiest and most influential businessmen, criminals, and decision-makers. Harry's living a life of lies, though; while his tailoring skills are genuine, his backstory is not. A former arsonist, prison inmate, and current husband to a woman (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween) that's on the inside of the Panamanian government, both Harry's background and his stature as a respected member of the community make him the perfect source of information.
Spy games and tailors go hand-in-hand like Dabo and Raktajino; in fact, Star Trek's "Garak" from "Deep Space Nine" is probably the quintessential filmed representation of a tailor with a mysterious past and embroiled in something of a spy network amongst the powerful and influential. In The Tailor of Panama, actor Geoffrey Rush attempts to recreate a similar tone as a man putting on a serious but ultimately dishonest front as a tailor and eventually finding himself involved in a dangerous game with both his future and that of Panama at stake. Rush's effort is very good, though somewhat uneven, but that's more a fault of the script that has his character unfocused than it is his acting ability. On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan's character is more easily assessed because he's so painfully one-dimmensional. A womanizing, self-centered weasel, Brosnan plays the part like only he can; he seems to call upon his James Bond experiences here, toning down the action but turning up the smugness and self-confidence; it works well for him, and considering his character's history of womanizing is what landed him in Panama in the first place, it seems only appropriate that he retain that trait throughout. Rush and Brosnan ignite the screen with every scene they share; particularly delicious in a devious sort of way is their first encounter inside Pendel's tailoring shop that sees Osnard toying with the tailor and gradually revealing that he knows more than Pendel believes. The Tailor of Panama also features a peculiar but nevertheless solid effort from Jamie Lee Curtis and an appearance by a pre-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe.
Unfortunately -- and not a fault of Rush's or Brosnan's performances -- the material never quite works. The Tailor of Panama is a dry, dull, and mostly vapid experience that plods along at a slow and sluggish pace with only a few fleeting moments of excellence in the form of dramatic or character developments. The main problem here is that the film lacks focus, not necessarily in story but certainly in style. Shifting on a dime from segments that take on an outright comedic tone (particularly when the score takes on a lighter feel) to suddenly flashing back to the brutality of the Noriega administration, the film seems scattered at best, though it generally settles on something of a light dramatic feel that's punctuated by Osnard's smugness and Pendel's balancing act between simple tailor and informant. John Boorman's (Deliverance) direction reflects the tone of the script, too; it's bland but not detrimental, and while the Director doesn't capture the scale of Excalibur or the same tension and gritty realism as seen in Deliverance, he doesn't have material even close to the same level of excellence to work with here. Without more than a cursory understanding of John le Carré's novel on which the film is based, it's hard to lay blame, but the script definitely lacks intensity, importance, and focus, and neither solid acting nor decent direction can overcome a fledgeling script.
The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Tailor of Panama suits up on Blu-ray with an inconsistent 1080p, MPEG-2 encoded, 2.35:1-framed transfer. An early release in the life of the Blu-ray format, it's unrealistic to expect the world from this disc, and all things considered it's not a bad effort despite said inconsistencies. The film's first shots inspire absolutely no confidence. Soft, fuzzy, poorly detailed, and terribly flat, the opening scene sets a troublesome tone, but the transfer never looks as bad again and some of the brighter daylight scenes actually fare very well. In these shots, detail is appreciably higher, clarity improves a great deal, colors appear bright and pleasant, and the image gains a much-needed sense of depth. Clothing, some of the more finely-appointed interiors, and close-ups of actors reveal a nice amount of visible detail that allow the image to come alive and deliver adequate -- but not fantastic -- Blu-ray visuals. Still, many scenes are plagued by hit-or-miss blacks, erratic detail, minor softness, and some occasional edge enhancement. Flesh tones can look a bit pasty but never stray too far away from a natural shade, and the transfer retains a subtle layer of grain. Certainly not a handsome transfer but, outside of a few shots, not abysmal either, The Tailor of Panama looks all right for an early Blu-ray release.
The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Listeners may size up The Tailor of Panama on Blu-ray through the included PCM 5.0 uncompressed soundtrack. That's right, there's no ".1" or subwoofer channel to be found here. Though the lack of a subwoofer channel is puzzling, The Tailor of Panama isn't the sort of movie that would have thumped and rattled the listening area, anyway. In fact, this one probably could have gotten away with a two-channel lossless or uncompressed track, and the results would have been virtually interchangeable. The rear channels rarely pump out any sound, and the track in general is delivered with a lifeless tone that seems timid and indistinct. The audio lacks the transparent quality listeners have come to expect of a PCM or lossless mix, and dialogue, sound effects, and music often sound rather puny. The track's best asset, though, is the presentation of the score. It does spread out nicely enough across the front with a generally distinct and pleasant flare, but still lacks compared to even moderately good tracks. Dialogue occasionally sounds muffled and can be lost under sound effects that often feature a fair volume but lackluster clarity. Atmospherics are heard slightly about the front half of the soundstage but do little to immerse the listener in the various locales around Panama. The Tailor of Panama's lossless track does its job well enough but with nary an extra bell or whistle to allow it to stand out as anything but painfully average.
The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Tailor of Panama stitches a few extras into the Blu-ray release. First up is a commentary track with Director John Boorman. The director delivers a cut-and-dry sort of track, speaking on the basic angles pertaining not only to the filmmaking process but also some of the history of the region, particularly as it pertains to the story presented in the film. Of course, random tidbits about the film dominate; from actor Geoffrey Rush's learned skill in the art of tailoring to the recognition of various secondary and tertiary actors that play in the film, the commentary is much like the movie: passable but not particularly engaging. Next is The Perfect Fit: A Conversation With Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush (480p, 24:46), a piece featuring the actors in a sit-down discussing the story, the difference between script and book, how the book guided their performances, Boorman's work, shooting locations, and plenty of other informative but generally rambling sort of insights. Also included is an alternate ending with optional Director commentary (480p, 5:32) and 1080p trailers for Tears of the Sun and Black Hawk Down.
The Tailor of Panama Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Tailor of Panama is a harmless little movie that doesn't get much right but neither does it get anything so egregiously wrong so as to make it more of a punch line than a serious movie. Still, the middle ground -- a sort of cinematic purgatory -- in which the film exists certainly doesn't do it any favors, but better to settle comfortably into the pile of passable but forgettable fare rather than descend into the realms populated by the more egregiously terrible pictures, a place that's definitely welcoming more than its fair share of newcomers of late. At best, The Tailor of Panama makes for a passable endeavor for Pierce Brosnan completists and as decent time-killing fare when the choices are The Tailor of Panama and the latest brain-dead reality show, but the film's lack of cohesion keeps it from being better than a borderline sort of floundering picture. Sony's Blu-ray release doesn't do the film any favors, either. An early release in the life of the format, the so-so technical specs are both expected and mostly excusable, seeing as how the studio now produces some of the finest discs on the market. Also featuring a handful of extras, The Tailor of Panama works best as a rental for those that care to give it a try.
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