11,000 Minutes

How do you measure a film festival? Frame by frame.

Well, yes. High time we got over it too. Instead of slick heroism, the saving grace of The Matador (which was obviously made on something less than a blockbuster budget) lies in the comic interplay between Brosnan's ignoble Noble and the hapless square he picks to serve his purposes. Greg Kinnear's Danny Wright (a surname as carefully chosen as "Noble") is a straitlaced businessman from Denver, married for 14 years, who's had an awful run of bad luck, beginning with the death of his son. Now he finds himself in Mexico City, struggling to close a deal that could mean some long-overdue financial salvation. Julian's also in town on business, and when, partially disabled by tequila, he accosts Danny with equal doses of vulgarity and flattery, the mark is offended. But there's something in Julian's style that Danny covets. You know, opposites attract. Boldness intrigues.

The uneasy relationship that develops is part con game, part creepy seduction, enacted to theme music that suggests Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me. At a bullfight -- thus the title -- Julian playfully shows Danny a few tricks of the assassination trade, preparatory to recruiting him. But anyone who's seen a movie or two suspects there might be a twist in store: Could it be that the roles of user and used are about to get confused? Why, in time, Danny even grows a beat-cop mustache just like Julian's. By act three, these two guys resemble each other no less than the personality-swapping women in Persona.

Meanwhile, The Matador pretends to indulge in a bit of Bondish glamour, leap-frogging to Las Vegas, Moscow, Budapest, and a racetrack in Arizona -- although the terrain and the atmosphere remain suspiciously the same. In other words, forget the international-intrigue element of the movie, which includes a spymaster named Mr. Stick (Philip Baker Hall). It's meant to be salted with humor, but it falls flat: Dueling hit persons Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt hit their marks much better in this regard in the otherwise tepid Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As The Matador unfolds, better to savor the startling scene in which Brosnan's soused misadventurer, cocktail in hand, lurches across a hotel lobby wearing nothing more than a black Speedo and boots. Ian Fleming must be turning in his grave. Or chuckling with appreciation.

Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
The Matador
The Matador

"I lie when I need to," Julian announces. "I tell the truth when I can." In that, we are asked to find a sort of tattered dignity. But by the time The Matador moves on, after a post-Mexico gap of six months, to Danny's neat suburban home, it's lost a lot of its comic momentum and whatever moral force it had. When the unhappy hit man shows up, unannounced, on the Wrights' doorstep, Danny's mousy wife, Bean (Hope Davis), is much taken -- not so much by the man as by the chrome .38 strapped to his calf -- and we get the uneasy feeling that a second seduction is about to begin. Not to worry, though. The things that Julian and Danny learned from each other in Mexico City -- although we're never quite sure what they are -- add up to a friendship of sorts. Brosnan's anti-Bond is a bounder, a drunk, and a fool. But there's something so attractively vulnerable about him that he's hard to resist -- even absent an impeccable tuxedo, an Aston-Martin, and a martini straight up, shaken not stirred. As enforced career changes go, Brosnan could be doing a lot worse. -- Bill Gallo

The Matador shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 14, and at 5 p.m. Saturday, October 29, at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-3456.


With a name like Prime, a movie had better be about something more than an older woman digging on a younger man, much to the disapproval of the younger man's mom. It ought to be about, oh, I dunno, math or something -- like Pi or Proof or even Primer, Shane Carruth's dizzying debut of 2004, in which two guys figure out how to travel a few hours into the past to make a little extra cash. Or maybe it could tell the story of Alan Greenspan and his race against time to lower the prime rate before a meteor collides with Earth, or perhaps it might be the story of a slab of prime rib that comes to life to attack unaware diners, or could be there's even a tale to be told of TV executives forced at gunpoint to program prime-time with an endless loop of According to Jim. The possibilities, though admittedly a bit on the awful side (surely a studio exec could do much better, right?), are endless. But all you're going to wind up with is, yes, an older woman digging on a younger man, much to the disapproval of the younger man's mom, which adds up to zero, which, alas, is not a prime number at all.

Just what the title has to do with the movie is of some mystery, one that might be unlocked by those who pay close attention to the movie (and if you are one of those people, you really should see more movies). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact Rafi Gardet (Uma Thurman), whose name sounds like something you might order with a side of hummus, is an "older woman" in her sexual prime -- older being her late 30s, and only studio execs would classify this as being older. (No wonder Shirley MacLaine was relegated to the final half of the Cameron Diaz-Toni Collette sisterhood pic In Her Shoes; in movie-studio years, MacLaine's been dead since 1997.)

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