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Sunday, May 25, 2008

THE MATADOR (2005)

Richard Shepard ’s gleefully malevolent buddy pic plays out like one of those softened Hollywood versions of a darker French comedy starring, say, Gerard Depardieu & Daniel Auteuil. Twenty-five years ago, it would have co-starred Walter Matthau & Jack Lemmon. (In fact, it did! Billy Wilder’s last gasp, BUDDY BUDDY/’81.) Shepard’s pic is as shiny & over-designed as Wilder’s was hazy & catch-as-catch-can, but not much more effective. Pierce Brosnan, playing the flip side of his chilly James Bond, is the coarse, friendless hitman who hits on Greg Kinnear, in the Lemmon role of the desperate businessman. Mutual suspicion turns into heavy bonding with Shepard skirting the remarkably strong sexual tension that develops between the two guys. It couldn’t have been unintentional. All the amoral aspects of the plot are just as studiously avoided as the sex angle, but you’ll pick up on them just the same.

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