The Matador – DVD Review

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Richard Shepard


Pierce Brosnan……….Julian Noble
Greg Kinnear……….Danny Wright
Hope Davis……….Bean Wright
Philip Baker Hall……….Mr. Randy
Adam Scott……….Phil Garrison
Dylan Baker……….Lovell

The Weinstein Company presents The Matador. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexual content and language). DVD release date: July 4, 2006.

The Movie

Richard Shepard’s film is a dark comedy about a Denver businessman, Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), who is in dire need of a deal, and an uncouth hitman who’s suffering from a nervous breakdown. Pierce Brosnan is the professional killer Julian Noble, though he would rather be considered a “facilitator of fatality”. It kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? He’s old, but proficient at what he does. Judging by his appearance, Julian is what Agent 007 would look like if he woke up one morning on the wrong side of the bed. This is, of course, after he let some European bombshell blow on his, er, dice in Monte Carlo.

Danny has traveled to Mexico in hopes of landing a sale. He’s married to his high school sweetheart Bean (Hope Davis), and has been trying to get his life on track ever since being laid off a year ago. If the sales pitch wasn’t enough to worry about, on the day of his flight, a tree topples into his kitchen. The nerve. The poor man couldn’t even finish his bowl of Frosted Flakes (or get a quickie from his wife before leaving).

If ever there was a movie character that’s too frank in his manner of speaking, it’s Julian. He’s not a people person, not by a long stretch. While encountering Danny in some low-lit bar, he perceives him to be a spy. But the two still converse over drinks. When Danny confesses to him that his kid died the previous year, Julian changes the subject and tells a joke where the punch line involves a midget and guy who has a huge “swizzle stick.”

Surely, this isn’t a proper response. As Julian removes the foot from his mouth and tries to apologize, Danny storms out of the bar. Later, Julian tracks him down and befriends him once again. He wants Danny to attend a bullfight with him. It is there he admits what he does for a living. Surprised, this Denver businessman becomes morbidly curious about the profession. So much so, he gets a crash course on the finer points of killing.

Having made a number of TV and direct-to-video movies in 24 days with only million-dollar budgets, Richard Shepard delivered the most buzzworthy film at Sundance 2005. Some critics (not me) have acknowledged this ballad of a hitman with issues as “Sideways meets Midnight Run.” If that’s the case, margaritas have replaced wine as the drink of choice. And, unlike Charles Grodin who was an accountant on the lam, Greg Kinnear is a man looking for a break. The only real comparison is that each film is a buddy picture.

Never mind how the film was marketed for theater audiences, The Matador is not an action thriller. It is a character study with an underscore of tension. Julian and Danny are different sides of the same coin. One is loud and eccentric, but the other has a subdued lifestyle. Danny may be a suburbanite, though Julian considers him to be lucky man since he has a wife who loves him deeply. All Julian has is himself and an affinity for booze, broads, and toenail polish.

Six months after their encounter in Mexico Julian is strung out. He has lost his professional killing prowess, and he strolls around hotel lobbies in his underwear and cowboy boots. A scene that gets overplayed too much in ads but also exemplifies Brosnan’s character. Yeah, his work-related problems are pretty bad.

Thus, it is fitting to have Julian dropping in on his drinking buddy at some ungodly hour in Denver. What happens next is more drinking, more vulgarity, and more memorable lines by a hitman who’s as “serious as an erection problem.”

It’s easy to think that the encounter the two had while in Mexico is the setup to a bad joke. The Matador is anything but. What was intended to be a thriller with comedy interspersed, ends up being a dark comedy with some thrills. Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis are well suited for their roles, but it is Pierce Brosnan who carries the movie. His character, Julian Noble, is different than anything in his vast body of work. The way he acts, especially his ability to say things without thinking, just throws you for a loop. As the main attraction, he is able to make you shake your head in disbelief while you laugh at loud.


Before describing the audio and video quality and the extras, special attention must be paid towards the DVD cover art. If there were an award for “Worst DVD Cover Art of the Year,” The Matador would be a nominee, and perhaps the odds on favorite to win. We are told to not judge a book by its cover, what about a DVD? This cover portrays the movie as some James Bond rip-off, or direct-to-video release. Why not just keep the same poster art as seen at movie theaters? Is it that difficult? More often than not, the poster art is an improvement over the cover art.

(Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen)

Cinematographer David Tattersall and production designer Rob Pearson definitely had their work cut out for them as far as shots and locations were concerned. Since The Matador was shot entirely in Mexico City, they masked the effect and were able to depict such cities as Denver, Tucson and Budapest as well. Tattersall gives the movie a rich picture with a complementary color palate. So, characters may have articles of clothing that are similar to colors in the background. Intentional it is, you can’t argue with a gorgeous array of saturated colors. The picture quality is consistently clean and clear, only a few moments of soft-looking images.

(English Dolby Digital 5.1)

This mostly dialogue-driven comedy with guns has moments where the sound effects come off with some deep bass reverberating behind them. The background music, which is highlighted by such vinyl artists as Dave Van Norden, Tom Jones and Asia, has a crisp and clear sound. The surround sound isn’t utilized very often, aside from bullet effects. Also includes optional English and Spanish subtitles.


Not exactly setting the box office ablaze, The Matador, which barely made its production budget back, surprisingly has a nice assortment of extras.

The bulk of the supplemental material is a pair of commentaries – one from writer-director Richard Shepard, the other with Shepard and stars Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. Both commentaries have animated participants, thus making them amusing and informative. For Shepard’s commentary, he reveals that Brosnan’s infamous walk through the lobby was not planned. Well, the walk was, just not Brosnan’s appearance. The former 007’s only condition was that he got to wear his cowboy boots.

The trio commentary is almost as good as the Shane Black-Val Kilmer-Robert Downey Jr. track on the Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang DVD from a month ago. Amusing bits include Kinnear’s “Still Horny?” ad-lib to Hope Davis after a tree falls through their kitchen as they were making out. Intentional or not, the way Danny and Julian look as they walk down a corridor at a Tucson Horseracing Track is Shepard paying homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

11 deleted/extended scenes can be played separately or together for a total run time of about 16 minutes; you have the option of playing the scenes with or without commentary by Shepard. The highlights of the deletions are “Delayed at the airport in Denver,” “Mr. Stick is Upset,” and “Julian’s Nightmare Vision.”

Richard Shepard on the Radio is an extra that you don’t see too often with DVD releases. It features the director’s appearances on NPR’s “The Business” (23:45) and KCRW’s “The Treatment” (28:38). The only problem with this supplement is that the viewer is only given a screen with a synopsis about the two programs. A better alternative would be for the radio program to play over a photo gallery that changes pictures every so often.

There’s also a making-of featurette (7:19) that’s your typical, behind-the-scenes look at the production, and a theatrical trailer and TV spot to round out the disc.


The Matador is a comedy with vulgarities like off-the-cuff remarks about the male and female genitalia. If this offends you in any way, then avoid witnessing Pierce Brosnan’s delivering the performance of his career. Though, if you hear words like “Margaritas and cock” mentioned in the same sentence, and find yourself with a smile or a grin, then you are in for a treat. It truly is a fun romp with Brosnan bringing his A-game, and Kinnear and Hope Davis adding support. Richard Shepard will get another chance at success with 2007’s Spring Break in Bosnia, starring Richard Gere, Terrence Howard and Jesse Eisenberg. In the meantime, I highly recommend renting The Matador today.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Matador
(OUT OF 10)