The Matador

Buddy Black Comedy. An aging assassin who is losing his touch befriends an everyman nice guy and both their lives are changed for the better.
This is a rather funny comedy that uses a Matador’s eloquent noble killing of a bull as a metaphor for facing death and murdering people with style. There are some great and funny moments of Greg Kinnear as the consummate everyman good guy and his shock at getting to befriend this cold hearted killer. As well as humorous moments of the Assassin, played brilliantly by Pierce Brosnan, as he tries to rediscover normal human life through this everyman.
However, I would have to say that the story fails in a couple ways. First, it doesn’t really explore the themes that are most embedded in such a premise. It doesn’t show the effect in Kinnear’s life of facing death and becoming more of a man of action and decision in light of the brevity of life. The story focuses on the encounters with these men, but not really the life effects on Kinnear. Also, the movie merely shows the hitman losing his nerves and being unable to kill anymore, but it does not explore the interior reasons for this in the killer. It does not show or tell us what could have been a wonderfully profound depiction of the effect of being a person who takes innocent life. At best it shows him as lonely on his birthday, because after all, who wants to be the friend of a killer? But he never tells Kinnear anything about this. A beautiful opportunity to transform Kinnear into a confessor is totally missed.

The morality of the movie is also deeply flawed. Basically, you have a hero, Kinnear, who befriends a man who should be turned in to the Feds, but he doesn’t. And there is no pressing reason that forces him NOT to. There is a wonderful moral moment, when we begin to realize that Greg may have hired the hitman to kill his business competition, and we become repulsed by him, but then we realize that he asked for it, but the hitman wouldn’t do it because he knew it would rack him with guilt for the rest of his life and he would regret it. So Kinnear learns his lesson without going all the way. Very cool. And by the way, this may be the scene where the storytellers were trying to show us the negative effect on the killer of his killing, but I don’t think it was clear enough. This could have been the confessor scene where we see the killer’s explanation of why he won’t do it more as a confession of his own misery in doing so. But instead it seemed to me to be portrayed more like the killer was more mature and able to handle it, but Kinnear was not, so the killer is like an older brother protecting the everyman, but not with his own regret.

Anyway, after that moral triumph, Kinnear then ruins his entire integrity by helping the assassin to kill his last target in order to get out of the business safely. This makes him a very unsympathetic hero to me. We find out that the target was actually the guy who was trying to kill the assassin, but it is too late, because the hero did not know that, so he did it, thinking he was killing an innocent man, which makes his character unredeemed and stained with evil. And I believe the storytellers knew this to be the case because they did not show a crucial dramatic moment of Kinnear helping him to actually kill the target. So, alas, the moral structure of this film was rather repulsive, though the ironic humor of the moments was brilliant.

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