This past week, I accidentally had myself a small film festival, the theme of which can best described as ‘Nasty Boys’. Something that delicious naturally deserves a review.
The Matador. This is Pierce Brosnan’s Anti-Bond, the exact opposite of suave, elegant, principled Good Guy. Brosnan plays a hitman, quickly on his way to a bad case of burnout, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a businessman, played by Greg Kinnear. Visually, the movie is beautiful, the script is pretty good and it is clear that the two leads are having a blast (no review is complete without mentioning Brosnan's image-shattering strut through a hotel lobby, stomach hanging out, clad only in black Speedos and boots). And I did, too - have a blast, I mean. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the movie.
The reason my praise is somewhat qualified has a lot to do with Brosnan and who he is. He is Pierce Brosnan and there is no getting away from that - it is hard to disassociate from the fact that you are watching Pierce Brosnan mess around with his image. He has played 'hero' - often rakish, at times somewhat lawless (The Thomas Crown Affair being the quintessential example), but always, always irresistible and has become somewhat typecast. Additionally, he has an inherent elegance and although he throws himself into the role of quite a nasty person, it's hard to make that final leap. Whether that is the fault of his image or my inability to let him out of his little box, I don't know. However, rent it. You'll have a good time.
The Libertine. Johnny Depp plays the second Earl of Rochester, a brilliant poet and playwright during the reign of King Charles II. The movie takes place during the last years of Rochester's life, during a time where he completed his life's work, which appeared to be a determined effort to live to the max. Utterly debauched and an unabashed reprobate, Rochester was the poster boy for sin, indiscriminately having sex with anybody who wished (and apparently, a whole lot of people wished), biting the hand that fed him by mercilessly lampooning the King and in general being a shit. He eventually died young, but not leaving a very good-looking corpse, likely due to an advanced case of syphilis and other 'issues'.
I loved this movie. I watched it over two days, having gotten distracted after the first 20 minutes. I mentioned to someone how I couldn't understand why Rochester was so irresistible, as based on what I had seen, he wasn't a very nice man. Now, I understand the attraction to bad boys as much as the next person, but this guy is just... mean. However, I changed my mind by the time the movie finished. Once again, Depp makes himself disappear and is completely compelling to watch as he fearlessly dives into the muck of the character, somehow managing to make you understand not only the attraction, but also the person. And then he makes you like him. It was astonishing - I couldn't stop talking about the movie after it finished, even though my audience hadn't seen the film (and in the process I think, perhaps boring said person just a smidge). The rest of the movie is also a very good, showing what I suspect is a fairly accurate picture of the general lack of cleanliness of the time - you can almost smell and taste the filth. It's a challenging movie, demanding your attention, involvement and thought and is well worth it. Not only do I want to own this movie, it also made me want to learn more about Rochester and his work. Go rent it. Watch it. As soon as possible. And when you do, be sure to watch the 'making of' special feature, which is the most charming, whimsical and well done 'making of' I have ever seen.