Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Movie: The Matador (2005)

Mercy is exactly the kind of movie you want to discover for yourself on cable, a tense, low-key thriller made with care and ingenuity. I made a point of remembering writer/director Richard Shepard’s name to see what he’d do next.

Given bigger names and a bigger budget, he delivers more of the same. The Matador, about an international assassin and a regular joe businessman who make an odd connection when they’re both stranded in Mexico City, is a modest, even slight movie. And it knows it, which makes it good, breezy fun. With all the heavy stuff out trolling for Oscar, it goes down like a margarita on a hot day.

Pierce Brosnan has traded on his James Bond persona before in the neglected The Tailor of Panama. As the hit man in the throes of a psychological breakdown, he makes the move to the dark side – and is clearly having a ball. Greg Kinnear, as always, gives good regular guy.

In the midst of the mayhem is a surprisingly moving portrait of a marriage between two people who are still deeply in love. Hope Davis, whom I adore and will watch in anything, has a small role as Kinnear’s wife that includes a gem of a scene in which she explains what her husband means to her. Her acting and Shepard’s writing are so strong that even the tubercular case behind me, spattering bits of his sole remaining lung onto the back of my head, couldn’t break the mood. On top of that, the soundtrack features songs by Asia and the Killers. What’s not to love?