The Matador is about the chance meeting of a hit man and an average joe in a bar in Mexico. Sounds like the setup to a joke, and in a sense it is.
Most movies regarding this subject would make the hitman (Brosnan), too cool and intelligent, while making the average joe (Greg Kinnear) a nitwit. Even the wife (Hope Davist) has an interesting, storied character.
Things kick into gear when the hitman is reminded that it's his birthday. Time for a party! Right? Time to call old friends! Time to find out hitman don't really have friends!
Pierce Brosnan gives one of those vanity-be-damned performances that usually puts an actor in danger of getting an OscarTM. He's funny, moving, scary, touching and debauched as hell. One scene where he crosses a hotel lobby will forever stay in my "greatest movie moments ever" mental montage.
What's great about the movie is it never cheats on its premise. (Which puts it in the rare air of 50 First Dates and Primer.)
This is not to say this movie is realistic. I mean, it might be; but I'll bet the while real hitmen are probably this flawed, none of them are this benign.
So, if you can suspend disbelief - and I think this movie makes that easy - you will be treated to one of the great character creations I've seen on film.
I haven't enjoyed a movie with this much sheer glee since Just Like Heaven. I couldn't wait to see where it would go next.
This one goes into my top ten for the year. (My year anyway; it was released in 2005.)