Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear are well-paired in The Matador as a globe-trotting hitman and a crestfallen businessman, respectively.
Writer-director Richard Shepard does better with the camera than the story as the film is a genre hybrid, include the buddy flick and black comedy.
Brosnan's Julian Noble is not only a hired assassin, but a swaggering womanizer with no close friends or family.
Mexico City is where Noble and Kinnear's Danny cross paths and become unlikely friends.
The nice-guy Danny isn't happy when Julian asks him to take part in his tough-guy business. Half a year later, they'll meet again, with Julian on much more of a downslide careerwise than his opposite.
There is abundant pungent line readings and smart imagery with bright, creative lensing that make the settings stand out.
Shepard allows Brosnan and Kinnear to fill their roles with the same kind of spry snap that was seen in Midnight Run with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin.
Brosnan works adroitly off of his Bond stereotype, drawing a bit from The Tailor of Panama and Kinnear is a fine foil, as the men get closer than either would like to admit. Hope Davis is very funny in support again as Danny's roguish wife.
The Matador starts to lose steam in the final act in terms of narrative, but there's a lot going on as the interplay between Julian and Danny ultimately has a charming, ennobling quality to it. We see what each other yearns for in the other when it comes to the ordinary or excitement. In the end, Shepard makes the zany, witty, and psychological kind of absurd when it comes from dire circumstances. Yet, with thrills and comedy in varying doses, it rides a rather colorfully taut, adult rollercoaster throughout.