The Matador (2005)

(In theaters, February 2006) On paper, this has all of the characteristics of a quirky black comedy: An ordinary man accidentally meeting a neurotic assassin, joining forces in order to solve each other’s problem. It’s not difficult to imagine the kind of riotous material that could come out of this premise. Alas, The Matador falls flat more quickly that you can imagine, neither stretching nor embracing the limits of its own tunnel vision. While Pierce Brosnan turns in a fabulous lead performance as an amoral assassin on the precipice of self-destruction, his character transcends the film around it, making the rest look hollow and faded. Hope Davis makes the most out of a thin character, but she and Greg Kinnear are pretty much the average couple they’re supposed to portray, and that’s part of the problem: For all the uncouth world-weariness of Brosnan’s anti-hero, The Matador grinds to a halt whenever Kinnear is involved. More sarcasm, more self-awareness might have helped, but instead we’re stuck in low-budget, low-imagination limbo. The film chuckles over its last bit of edginess, not realizing that it had created higher expectations for itself.

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