Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Matador

Great, great, great movie.  Highly recommended.  The neurotic-criminal-has-nervous-breakdown storyline certainly isn't new, but this was one of the most entertaining versions I've seen, if not #1.  In fact, let's think of some other recent examples:
  • Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Analyze This (& That)
  • Gun Shy (DEA agents are criminals, right?)
  • Tits McGee
OK, so the last one was made-up.  My point is that The Matador is not the first movie to come along that features a lovable hit man who ponders a career move in the presence of a fish-out-of-water "regular guy."  But it's definitely the most effective, and possibly the best.

The reason for that is its outbursts of violence actually fit into the tone of the movie.  The intermittent gunfire in Analyze This, for example, was an extreme departure in tone.  One minute it's a takeoff on The Godfather, the next it actually is The Godfather.  It's as if the movie is saying to us, "sure, I've got some funny jokes, but we kinda need to move the plot along and prove that these criminals are violent, so here's a firefight with Billy Crystal getting shot.  Hilarious."  They're cute and cuddly mobsters one minute, then they're blowing each other to bits the next.  You couldn't maybe have them act a little more dangerous?  Makes no sense.  As for Grosse Pointe, much as I love the movie, it's too big a reach to see John Cusack as a contract killer.  He's not likeable in a roguish way, he's too unlike the image of a hit man.  So when he shoots people, or slams televisions onto their heads, or stabs them in the neck with pens, you accept the violence as a plot point, but you kinda go "huh... oookaaaay."  With Julian, though, we feel from the very beginning that he's a scumbag hired killer.  He has sex with schoolgirls and he'd kill ten single moms at the drop of a hat for a lap dance.  That guy kills people.  And that's why the movie actually makes you feel like you're seeing a culture clash, instead of just telling you that you are.

This is not to say that it's easy to dance along the line between comedy and black comedy.  I don't know that having DeNiro's flunkies tell war stories instead of shooting guns would do less harm.  I certainly don't think Grosse Pointe Blank would be better if John Cusack weren't so damn lovable.  I'm just saying that Pierce Brosnan found the right balance, and nobody really has until now.  So good on him.

No comments:

Post a Comment