Full of suspenseful set-pieces involving assassination, The Matador is a genre film on the surface. It’s actually more of a character piece about one man about to pay the price for a lifetime of being a pathological loner (paradoxically, while indulging his lusts in every other way imaginable), and another grasping at his last chance to save both his professional and family lives.
Pierce Brosnin lets it rip as Julian Noble, a sleezebag assassin with a Magnum P.I. mustache. Interestingly, he frequently boasts of his bisexuality, but we only see him having sex onscreen with women. The is-he-or-isn’t-he ambiguity actually comes into play regarding an imporant plot point resolved near the very end of the film. Even better, the plot informs character, which is something of a rarity.
Hope Davis’ character defies cliche by enjoying a genuinely sexual relationship with her husband, but is also more openly seduced (in a platonic manner) by the exotic allure of an assassin. Perhaps Julian has lost any James Bond-like sexual allure he may have had, but discovers he can make people like him by simply revealing what he does for a living.
Disappointingly, the movie ends rather cheesily, with Julian finding some humanity deep inside his depravity.