The Matador Richard Shepard

It's impossible not to think of James Bond while watching Pierce Brosnan in The Matador. That is, how the lead's sleazy, womanising hit man lines up almost exactly to the behaviour of the world's most famous secret agent — and how genuinely undesirable the image turns out to be. It's also not difficult to see his reality in the character's bitter cynicism — always swept under the rug in the Bond films — as the work of a middle-aged failure rather than a suave ladies man (though that's the image he clings to). The rest of the film isn't up to these free associations, but it's an agreeable time-killer nonetheless, with Brosnan crossing paths with struggling businessman Greg Kinnear and deciding that maybe he made the wrong choice. The fact that he's getting panic attacks and flubbing hits may have something to do with it of course, and when he screws up a big assignment he has to turn to his "only friend" — whom he's known for days — to help him out of a deadly situation. Kinnear is more than a match for Brosnan's hilarious self-satire, and Hope Davis is sensational as Kinnear's wife. The fact that neither of them sees anything wrong in having a hit man for drinks after midnight isn't played for the irony it has, and the ending peters out in a bit of a fizzle; until then though it's fairly droll and consistently absorbing even as it can't keep up with its internal logic. You may never look at a Bond movie the same way again — but those movies have become such a chore that you can only thank the filmmakers for the fresh view. (Alliance Atlantis)