An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            THE MATADOR -  Pierce Brosnan is a suave, sophisticated, often cynical, largely decent man.  It’s possible that my unabashed affection for him as James Bond and Thomas Crown is why I didn’t much like “The Matador.”  I have always loved knowing Brosnan’s high-speed brain would concoct inventive solutions to problems that bore no relation to life.  Watching him glide, unruffled, through nip and tuck adventures was one of real life’s pure pleasures.  In “The Matador” he has been reborn as a part time drunken, failed assassin. 

                Julian (Pierce Brosnan) the hit man meets Danny (Greg Kinnear), a pure and innocent American businessman who is in Mexico to land a deal so he can quickly get back to the wife he loves.  Julian’s profession as a “facilitator of fatalities intrigues Danny.”  We tag along as he plies his trade in Vienna, Las Vegas, Moscow, Sydney, Budapest, and Denver.  Finally, at a Tucson race track. Julian enlists Danny’s help in one of his plots.  Guess what:  the innocent American suburbanite likes this murder business.  It beats being a failed salesman.  While the movie isn’t a candidate to displace “8 Heads in a Duffel Bag” as worst movie of the decade, the adjective “awful” is not excessive. 

                Hope Davis adds some necessary humor as a housewife with a twist, and nobody plays a boy scout better than Greg Kinnear, but the script is dull, the action predictable, and then there’s the problem of Pierce Brosnan who is typecast in the best of ways; he’s an institution, and you can’t turn a hero into a sleaze ball without alienating the faithful. 


                RUMOR HAS IT – Few comedies start with a better premise:  1962, Mrs. Robinson (Ann Bancroft) and Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman); 1997, the acerbic, fearless Mrs. R has become Shirley MacLaine, Benjamin has morphed into Kevin Costner, and Jennifer Anniston is the grown up kid who calls Mrs. Robinson grandma.  A second chapter to the graduate with this particular cast is a prospect to be savored, and for a short while it measures up to the fine beginning. 

                Someone says “Life should be nuts; otherwise it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together.”  There’s a nice wisdom in that line.  Unfortunately the fun drains quickly away in the heavy hands of director Rob Reiner who is just not Mike Nichols.  Nichols’ direction of “The Graduate” was inspired.  Reiner just can’t carry through on the terrific idea of revisiting the family decades later.  After the joke of one guy sleeping with grandmother, mother, and daughter wrings its laughs, there just isn’t much left.  It may be enough to watch Jennifer Aniston, who is adjusting with skill and charm to the big screen and Shirley MacLaine, who never fails to pull a laugh as she goes in an instant from straight faced silence to an outrageous comment without changing expression.  The whole thing is O.K., but it should have been great.


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