The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 9A
Unlikely buddy comedy shows
. Pierce Bronsan's wit, humor
By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer
A hitman is the perfect target. In Hollywood, anyway,
a hitman equals automatic edge - instant dark comedy
- since any movie where your sympathetic lead is a
cold-blooded killer implies either moral ambivalence
or a sociopathic audience.
And sure enough, that's the kind of reasoning "The
Matador" is banking on. It's a clever, funny and excep-
tionally well acted little medita-
tion on friendship and morals, but The Matador
its pretensions of edge and hipster At the Showcase
appeal are tacked unceremonious-
ly on to the ethics of rooting for a Miramax
professional killer. It's lazy and it's
0 been done. The situations are comical and the depth of
characterization is a pleasant surprise, but "The Mata-
dor" plays so sweetly devoid of cynicism that when it
strives for dark it only comes up sunshine.
Here's the setup: A hitman (Pierce Brosnan, "Die
Another Day") and a nondescript businessman (Greg
Kinnear, "Nurse Betty") walk into a bar in Mexico
City. Soon they're bonding over margaritas and taking
in bullfights, when suddenly the straight-laced sales-
man learns his new friend is a professional killer, spe-
cializing in "mainly corporate gigs." Like any good
bar joke, the juxtaposition of society's polar opposites
produces all the hilarity of incongruity and situational
But without convincing and sympathetic characters,
that means nothing more than a bad sitcom. Profes-
sional "facilitator," Julian Noble is a man without iden-
tity, home or friendship. Brosnan draws him clearly as
a man crying out for connection, breaking down inside
from a crippling emotional void, but reluctant to shatter
his tough veneer.
The sex appeal of his work - the slick precision,
secrecy and efficiency with which he takes out targets,
not to mention the babes he beds on the way - might
call to mind Brosnan's most famous role as Her Majes-
ty's superspy, James Bond.
But Brosnan's Julian is a man of need and irritation,
and the actor is wonderfully effective at maintaining the
three dimensionality of his character while displaying
deft comedic timing in the script's funnier moments.
Kinnear plays an appropriate foil to Brosnan's outland-
ish hitman as the tightly wound Danny Wright.
He's the kind of suburban hero who throws around
"sales pitch" and flashes nervous tics as though he's
making a point of it. Kinnear might have played equally
effectively and less annoyingly by toning down the neu-
rotic everyman persona, but it certainly works to illu-
minate the unlikeliness of a friendship between these
two very different men. And when buddy comedies
have become the expected mishmash of ethinicites and
social classes, a simple juxtaposition of employments,
like this, often reveals more than an audience has any
Courtesy of Miramax
Ah Grandpa, stop your creepy James Bond impression!
right to expect.
When Danny discovers that all Julian's globetrotting
and sexual escapading have added up to is an ultima-
tum of kill or be killed, he reluctantly agrees to help
The film counts on a savvy audience to recognize
that, for most people, murder isn't a casual pastime.
Why is Danny helping this man who kills corporate
nuisances without remorse? Does it have something to
do with his unexpectedly getting a much-needed corpo-
rate gig back in those sun-drenched, margarita-soaked
days at the bullfights in Mexico City?
Well, newcomer director Richard Shepard is count-
ing on a sharp audience to wonder, and he expertly bal-
ances that tension with the sillier moments of humor
to ensure that neither element threatens to usurp the
tone of the film. Overall, "The Matador" remains con-
sistently smart and upbeat. With a little sex, a lot of
alcohol and just a slice of murderous intrigue shaken
together in a Mexican cantina and the snowy suburbs of
Denver, the film is about as intoxicating a buddy-com-
edy cocktail as you're likely to find.
I& By Sarah Schwartz
For the Daily
Hollywood studios aren't famous for
overestimating the intelligence of their
that for children.
So it's apleasure
to see a movie like
put enough trust
in their tot-sized
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
The Weinstien Company
consumers to connect numerous pop-
culture skewerings, four separate stories
and one fractured fairy tale. But what
does it say when a movie expects this
much from the audience and gives them
a film that looks like it was ripped off a
cheap video-game cut scene?
It's not as though the movie doesn't
have promise. It begins at the familiar
end of "Little Red Riding Hood," as
the Woodsman (James Belushi, TV's
"According to Jim") comes in to save
Granny (Glenn Close, "The Stepford
Wives") and Little Red (Anne Hatha-
way, "Brokeback Mountain") from
the Wolf (Patrick Warburton, "Men in
Black II"). When the police come to
investigate this "breaking and entering,"
each character gives a different version
of the tale, and reveals their true selves.
The Woodsman is an aspiring actor, the
Wolf is an investigative journalist, Little
Red is a ninja in training and Granny
dabbles in extreme sports. Obviously,
the outcome is anything but the Grimm
brothers' fairy tale.
Luckily for "Hoodwinked," the cast
works hard for the audience's entertain-
ment. Close's Granny says "Fo' shizzle"
and carries around hand grenades, while
Hathaway gets to play the same singing,
karate-chopping character she played in
"Ella Enchanted," but with more sullen
teenage attitude. And whenever the film
is need of a good laugh, one can always
look to newcomer director Cory Edwards.
He lends his voice to Twichy, a squirrel on
speed who, with one cup of coffee, can
catch up to a racing police car.
The script is witty and smart in pock-
ets, as when Red questions the Wolf over
the size of his ears and he snaps, "The
better to hear your criticisms." The musi-
cal numbers too are duly comical - par-
ticularly the one about schnitzel and
lederhosen - and there's a singing, hill-
billy goat with detachable horns to boot.
But it's hard to get into an animated
movie that's so visually uninspired,
especially given the great strides in
computer animation during the past few
years. "Hoodwinked" strives to be the
next "Shrek," but lands closer to last
summer's abominable "Valiant." The
motion of the characters is choppy and
the scenery is flat.
And after referencing "CSI" "The
Matrix," "xXx," "Mission: Impossible,'
"Saturday Night Fever" and many more,
the pop-culture send-ups are likely to
provoke more yawns than laughs. There
are too many homages even for the adults
in this kids' movie. "Shrek" has already
poked fun at 98 percent of pop culture;
people don't need to see a lesser movie try
to outdo it with the extra 2 percent.
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