The Matador

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Fresh from being booted out of his most famous role as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan hits the big screen once again in a role that seems to have given him an immense amount of fun.

In fact, those who know Brosnan primarily from his Bond turns – or perhaps as Remmington Steele in the 1980s TV show of the same name through which he first found fame – may not really have noticed that he’s got a wonderful comic ability. The suave Bond image, even with the one-liners, has always seemed slightly restrictive on old Pierce and despite making a very good 007, second only to Sir Sean Connery, he’s never really been able to shine through and prove his abilities in the part.

Yet in a number of his other film projects since becoming a global megastar with the Bond franchise, Brosnan has seemingly easily displayed precisely the kind of laid-back, likeable charm that his Bond has often lacked. Be it as the title character in the superb heist movie that is The Thomas Crown Affair remake, the unconventional lawyer in romantic comedy The Laws of Attraction, the sociopath spy in The Tailor of Panama or even the nutty professor in the excellent sci-fi spoof Mars Attacks!, Brosnan has used his good looks and classic Hollywood smile to superb effect, often playing off his status as Bond to expertly wrongfoot audience expectations.

Now, however, we get to see Brosnan do near-slapstick comedy in a deliberate exercise in good natured self-mocking. Once again using his audience’s instant recognition of him as Bond, the expectation of Brosnan playing a hitman is that he will be the usual charming, smooth and sophisticated type which the Irishman seems constantly to have been cast as since he became 007 back in 1995. Instead, his assassin is a bumbling, sleazy, moustachioed near-incompetent who looks and acts more like a reject from a low-budget 1970s porn movie than the coolest secret agent in the history of cinema.

Thanks largely to this unexpected turn, the result is a lightweight but highly entertaining, utterly silly film. Brosnan’s assassin befriends the often underrated Greg Kinnear in Mexico city, helping out the down-on-his-luck businessman to sort out a few problems. But soon the favour needs to be returned – not in the kind of sinister way that hitmen usually require favours to be returned in Hollywood movies, but a surprisingly endearing, pathetic and yet simultaneously repellent way.

Throughout, it is Brosnan who dominates – his character is incredibly hard to like, but his performance is instantly endearing. He’s obviously having great fun in front of the camera, and such sheer enjoyment filters through easily. This may not be a classic by any stretch, and is unlikely to have the enduring appeal of his The Thomas Crown Affair, but it is almost guaranteed to give you a top-notch night out, albeit a highly silly one.