| The Red Right Hand
Philip Baker Hall
This is Bronsan's first film since the announcement that Daniel Craig will be playing James Bond. As an actor stepping out of that particular role, he should be aware of the connotations and comparisons that will be attached with his latest project. Thus making 'The Matador' the strangest and most ingenious selection for Brosnan. What, at first, sounds like a throw-away thriller - businessman meets hitman in bar - is actually a detached comedy with moments of extremely heartfelt sincerity and graceful humanity. What starts out as a typical 'Brosnan' role, quickly falls into madness and despair; the slick, well-dressed killer replaced with a drunken misogynist. Greg Kinnear plays Danny Wright, a despondent businessman with a string of bad luck - the most recent being a 20 foot tree ploughing through the roof, decimating his kitchen. He has been sent on a business trip to Mexico City, incidentally so has notorious hitman, Julian Noble [Brosnan]. The two men end up drinking in their hotel bar. Danny's celebrating as the deal he flew out for appears to be going in his favour; Julian's mission is complete and yet he can't help feeling distressed as it's his birthday, completely unbeknownst to him. After a rather awkward introduction you start to get the impression that Julian is not only a vicious killer but also a rude, tactless man:
Danny - Margaritas taste better in Mexico!
Julian - Yes, Margaritas... and cock.
As Danny becomes defensive and shies away, you get the sense that Julian doesn't know how to behave in public; it would appear that being a hitman has extreme downfalls - namely when it comes to simple things like general conversation. In a moment of drunken honesty, Danny reveals that his son was killed nearly four years ago. Julian's insensitive reaction is to jump into a joke about a dwarf with a 15-inch schlong. Danny, now offended and disgusted, excuses himself and departs; on leaving, Julian's face momentarily sinks, then he turns back to his drink.
The next morning Julian sees that he misses regular company and decides to pursue Danny. With the potential buying company delaying, Danny has to stay in Mexico, while his partner flies back home. Overhearing this, Julian apologises and finally wins him over with tickets to a local bullfight. It's in the bullfighting arena that Danny catches a brief glimpse of Julian's psychotic and intelligent mind; on semi-reluctantly revealing his occupation to Danny, Julian provides a demonstration. Danny points to a man in the crowd and suggests that Julian 'eliminates' him, money not being an object. All of a sudden, the two men are on their feet heading towards the men's toilets. Julian quizzes Danny as to where an exit may be, how to distract the guards and how to dispose of a possible bodyguard. For the first time in the film Julian is enjoying himself and his work, almost as if he likes sharing his little trade secrets with an average man - who's lapping it all up - giving him a new fervour for his skills. As the role-playing draws close to the climax, Danny begins to get cold feet, not knowing how far Julian will take this. A knife appears. Julian, in a lustful trance of planning and heavy breathing kicks open the toilet stall, Danny covers his eyes. Julian apologises profusely in Spanish and quietly closes the door. Filmed with such intensity, like Danny, you really don't know if Julian is going to go ahead with the kill or not.
Later that day Julian makes an offer to Danny, asking him to aid him on his next job. It's a simple scene in an outdoor cafe but the two leads play of each other so well that it doesn't matter - at one point Julian quietly confesses that he wanted to be a cheerleader when he was young. Danny starts telling him about a relative that happens to be a male cheerleader, which only enrages Julian as he was clearly joking: there's only one thing he wants to talk about and that's a possible job. Danny eventually refuses. Later that night Julian darkens Danny's door once more, drunk again, banging away, shouting apologies. The screen fades to black, 'Six Months Later.' It's nearing Christmas and the anniversary of Danny and Bean's [Davis] son's death, suddenly there's a knock at the door, followed by a ring, following by a banging, then a familiar drunken English voice calling out, "Danny, Danny! Danny with the big white fanny!" Shepard has given us something unique. Not quite Cohen Brothers, not quite Alexander Payne, not even Wes Anderson but something similar, yet independent, with it's own feel; a serious drama-comedy with some of the most appalling one-liners from Brosnan: "I hate these Catholic countries. It's all blushy-blushy and no sucky-fucky."
3rd March 2006
The Scene To Look Out For:
On awaking, Julian decides to go for a swim. On this whim he leaves his room in black trunks, sunglasses and designer boots, sporting a drink. As he reaches the pool he removes the boots and steps in. The underwater camera picks up Julian's submergence, unexpectedly Julian begins shouting 'Fuck!' as his intoxicated system conjures a hallucinatory shark, swimming around. An example of the fantastical humour that's littered throughout.
Has to be Julian Noble; Brosnan gives such a delightful performance that has you cringing, recalling memories of vulgar people you left a room to avoid. So far from James Bond and yet Bond to the extremes. Crafty career change.
"I'm as serious as an erection problem"
In A Few Words:
"A shock performance from Brosnan makes for a smart, warped comedy about friendship"