Rental Unit: "The Matador" 

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"I can't believe I'm at the racetrack trying to talk an assassin into killing someone!"

I hear Greg Kinnear say this to Pierce Brosnan and I can't believe I'm at home on a Saturday watching this movie!

"The Matador" would be much easier to review if I could tell you it was about something besides trying to be a stylish comic thriller, one of the most threatening descriptives as yet levied in the 21st century. Though undoubtedly a career improvement for the maker of "Playboy: Inside Out," this story of a tired and burned-out professional assassin (Brosnan) could be a metaphor for an entire genre, but writer-director Richard Shepard doesn't deserve that much credit.

Brosnan (who also produced) is in a familiar ring as a man with a license to kill, only this time for some shady corporation or other rather than the British government. Bestubbled and suffering from occasional on-the-job hallucinations, his Julian Noble meets an average Joe named Danny (Kinnear) at a hotel bar in Mexico City and entices him with his colorful career. Danny is nearly convinced to help in a complicated kill, but balks at the last moment, and the two don't see each other again for a few years, when Julian shows up on his doorstep at Christmas.

Though you may find such a premise amusing, "The Matador" doesn't make much of it. Its few interesting, if not altogether graceful, flourishes come courtesy of Brosnan, who seems to be the only person on hand who recognized the opportunities in his anti-Bond. Representing the uglier aspects of this hack buddy-picture is the horribly flat Kinnear, doing a nonfunny, nonreligious Ned Flanders that is not so much miscast as completely misconceived. You could say the same thing about the entire project, mostly a soulless exercise in commercial-style cinematography. S

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