The Matador (15) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Pierce Brosnan kicks Bond firmly into touch with a performance as a hitman who's the very opposite of debonair. He plays Julian Noble, "a facilitator of fatalities" in his words, who after years of dealing in death suddenly finds life has turned on him: his vision is blurring and his trigger-finger has got the yips.

Drunk and bedraggled in Mexico City, he happens to share a margarita one night with Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a nice-guy executive who's trying to close a business deal and stave off debt. The two men recognise a need in each other: Julian basically hasn't any mates, and Danny hasn't the necessary "killer instinct". He soon learns, thanks to Julian's crash course in extreme living, first at a bullfight, then at a race-course where the assassin needs help for his next hit.

Writer-director Richard Shepard has the right stuff here, a darkly skewed script and a tremendous pairing of loose cannon and straight arrow, which enters a tense second phase when Julian pitches up in Denver and reacquaints with Danny and his bemused wife (Hope Davis). "For an assassin he's very... nice," she offers.

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