Plot: What’s it about?
Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan) is an assassin, an elite level “facilitator of fatalities” that is called in when the job must be flawless. After over twenty years in the business, Noble has traveled the world, romanced countless women, and eliminated all the targets on his list. But a recent mission in Manilla didn’t go as planned, thanks to a mental breakdown. Noble was burned out, unable to take out the target because whenever he saw the mark, he saw only himself as a child. Despite that mishap, Noble has been given another chance and this time, his work takes him to Mexico. He is still shaken up, not to mention lonely and depressed, unable to find comfort in booze or women. At a hotel bar he meets Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a businessman with problems of his own, as he is on hard times and on the brink of financial ruin. The two strike up a shaky friendship, one in which Noble opens up and reveals his feelings, while Wright is intrigued, yet also frightened. The two soon part ways, but six months later, Noble arrives at Wright’s home, in terrible trouble. Another failed assignment has signed Noble’s death warrant, unless he can pull off one final task. In order to do so however, he needs help and since Wright is his only friend, he has no one else to turn to. But will Wright agree to lend a hand and even if he does, has Noble got one last shot left in him?
I don’t remember much promotion or fanfare for The Matador when it ran in theaters, despite Pierce Brosnan in the lead and a solid concept. So it should be no surprise that it didn’t make much box office noise and made a quick slide to home video. This is all a shame, as the movie deserved a better run and more attention, as it is a unique and entertaining motion picture. The Matador is packaged like an action thriller, Brosnan as a hitman and Kinnear as an innocent man trapped in the middle of events he can’t fathom. In truth however, this is more of a drama with a lot of humor injected. Brosnan tosses aside his slick, suave persona of usual to embrace this fragile, desperate assassin. He plays a rough man here, one who speaks with brutal frankness, but remains likable thanks to his skillful performance. We can buy him as a cold killer without question, but at the same time, his emotional meltdown is effective. Kinnear is also good here, while Hope Davis shines in her role, though she doesn’t have much screen time to work with. The Matador has a good story, great performances, and is just a lot of fun to watch. This HD-DVD version has an improved visual transfer, plus all the supplements from the standard DVD, so there’s no reason not to upgrade.
Video: How does it look?
The Matador is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie has some gorgeous locations, all of which look incredible here. I was very impressed by the colors, with hues that are so vibrant and rich. The reds and greens just shine here, so vivid, but no signs of errors in the least. Just as impressive are the black levels, which are accurate and show great depth. The deep blacks and rich colors combine to offer visuals you can’t take your eyes off of, simply terrific work. As far as sharpness, the detail level is high throughout, though not quite as high as in some transfers I’ve seen. Not to call this one soft, as it isn’t, but some scenes don’t keep pace. The image is still much sharper than standard DVD of course, but sometimes it is a touch on the soft side. At the same time, other sequences look as crisp and detailed as we could want. This isn’t a watermark transfer, but the movie looks very, very good and I doubt many fans will complain.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here is delivered by a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 option, but to be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with the results. I found dialogue to be so low, I had to turn the volume up well beyond normal levels, but not all elements were so low. So as I strained to hear some of the vocals, I’d be deafened by others, an inconsistent and ineffective soundtrack. The movie only has a few moments of pure power, but they sound good and loud, unlike the other audio ingredients. I was frustrated with this mix, I had to adjust the volume frequently and that doesn’t enhance the experience. I wouldn’t call this is a bad soundtrack, but the volume concerns make it tough to score this one. This disc also includes subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All of the supplements from the standard DVD have been brought over, which is excellent news. Richard Shepard, the film’s writer and director, offers an audio commentary track to start us off. Shepard seems prepared and shares a lot of information about the production. He talks about all sorts of topics, from budget limitations to the cast to the writing process, a solid overall track. Shepard returns in a second session, but this time he is joined by stars Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. Some information from the first track is repeated, but the humorous tone and various production anecdotes make this track worth a listen. You can also listen to Shepard in two audio interviews, recorded for radio programs. You’ll hear some more insights here, but after both commentaries, a lot of the same ground is covered. This disc also includes some deleted scenes, a very brief promotional featurette, a television spot, and the film’s theatrical trailer.