One Hit Wonder

In a bullfight, matadors are supposed to instantly kill the bull with one strike of the sword. If not, the audience will witness an unwanted mess, where the bull’s death is agonizingly prolonged. The movie stabs at this idea and likens it to the main character’s profession. As a hit man, Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) needs only one shot to snuff out his target. It’s a cool analogy but the movie doesn’t extend it to its story. “The Matador” is really a comedy about a burned out man who’s in need of company. So, as far as analogy is concerned, the movie would have been more appropriate with the title “Left Alone in the Toaster.”

“The Matador” performs well when it aims to be amusing. Brosnan is all game when he lets loose, although he seems restricted to be simply an alter ego of a certain debonair agent. The movie seems to scream, “Hey, look at James Bond NOT being James Bond!” Greg Kinnear fares better as the straight-man businessman, who befriends Julian in a hotel bar. His curious and fickle chemistry with Brosnan is the movie’s highlight.

The movie’s problem is its attempt to take a lot of shots. It tries to be deep, to be a drama, to be a thriller, and to be an action film. It never really takes off in any of those directions. It should have stuck with its one but sure-fire shot: comedy. That would’ve hit the spot. That would’ve killed. In the end, “The Matador” feels underwhelming. Despite the flavorful style and the lively cinematography, the screenplay lacks any zest the kick story up a notch. But hey, while the movie hits no bull’s eye, it is no bullshit either.

Grade: B

Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Scott, and Dylan Baker
Screenplay by
Richard Shepard
Directed by
Richard Shepard
Rated R for strong sexual content and language