Friday, June 28, 2013

Nobody's Fool (1994)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #11

Synopsis: Flawed, salt-of-the-Earth day labourer re-connects with estranged son by... narcotizing a dog and stealing a snowblower?!?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In his fortieth year of moviemaking, Paul Newman adds another milestone portrayal to his career in Nobody’s Fool, a luminous slice-of-life story set in a blue-collar upstate New York town and laced throughout with humor and heart.”

What Did I Learn?: Don't EVER ask a kid nicknamed "Whacker" how he acquired such a monicker.

Really?: 1) I had a bit of trouble believing the relationship between Sully (Newman) and Carl (Bruce Willis), the slimy local contractor... let's see: Sully sues Carl for injuries sustained during a job, yet agrees to work for him under the table? And then Sully steals Carl's snowblower not once, but twice, and Carl responds not by calling the cops, but stealing it back? 2) Hold on - Sully's son loses his job as an English professor in the city, and he decides to settle in town with one of his two sons in order to do handyman work? I realize his marriage is on the rocks, and he put himself through college by doing carpentry, but come on - wouldn't he at least go home and try to find a job there, instead? 3) Melanie Griffith offers to take Sully with her to Hawaii? Um...I'm not buying that one. And I certainly don't believe he would politely decline her offer.

Rating: Nobody's Fool is a warm-hearted, and often funny character-driven drama. Newman is gruff-but-kind-hearted ne'er-do-well (a marked contrast to his performance in Harry and Son, where he played a blue collar jerk), and he shares some great moments with Willis, the late Jessica Tandy as Sully's landlady, and a number of other characters in some wonderful scenes. The storyline is a bit contrived, so I can't give this movie a perfect score, but Nobody's Fool is still highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie # 10

Synopsis: Hud goes to jail.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “His crime: nonconformity. His sentence: the chain gang. Paul Newman plays one of this best-loved roles as Cool Hand Luke, the loner who won’t – or can’t – conform to the arbitrary rules of captivity. It recalls other hallmark Newman performances: Luke is The Hustler without a dream of victory, Harper without a moral mission, Hud without a father to defy.”

What Did I Learn?: After you've busted out of jail, it probably isn't a good idea to mail postcards and magazines back to your buddies in the slammer.

Really?: 1) Prison rape is mentioned early on when the new convicts are warned against playing "grab-ass", but it never becomes an issue. I realize Luke can defend himself against attacks, but I had a hard time believing the obnoxious bad cheque guy wouldn't become somebody's squeeze toy. 2) So, Luke had what...a two-year sentence? There's never any mention of extra time being tacked on after any of his escapes, so I really have to wonder how long he was in the big house, and how close he was to getting out, had he minded his P's and Q's. 3) I realize the warden didn't want Luke to work on the road after the death of his mother, but come on - did he have to throw him in the hot box for the duration of time until her burial? Sure, it helps establish the warden as a bad-ass, but that seems awfully punitive and counter-productive, considering Luke hadn't done anything. 4) So, Luke's buddies had permission to help themselves to 50 hard-boiled eggs from the prison kitchen in order to facilitate a wager? 5) One of the guards mentions that he's never killed a white man before, yet there aren't any African-Americans in the prison. Since this film is set in the deep South, I'm guessing the prisons were still segregated, but maybe somebody should have explained this?

Rating: Cool Hand Luke is probably Paul Newman's most iconic role, and he does a magnificent job of portraying the troubled rebel without a cause. While younger audiences may find it a bit slow-moving, Cool Hand Luke is - on the surface - a powerful, yet often-funny movie about life in a Southern prison; at a deeper level, it's the tragic story about a radical non-conformist who is unable to find his place in the world. Anyone who hated high school, or worked a bad job will identify with Luke to some degree. Oh, and kudos to George Kennedy for an outstanding performance as the bully with a heart of gold, Dragline. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Harry and Son (1984)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie # 9

Synopsis: Grumpy old fart loses career, goofball son drinks his beer.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Only a hard-nose writes off his kid. Only a hero has the courage to change.”

What Did I Learn?: A sure-fire way to piss off Dear Old Dad is to open his last beer, drink a bit from the can, and leave it half-finished in the fridge.

You Might Like This Movie If: you're a sucker for anything that ends in "and son".

Really?: 1) Um, I get that Harry really needs to get laid, two years after the death of his wife, but come on - how many sons would introduce their dad to a nymphomaniac, take off, and allow her to have her way with the old fart? 2) If Howard doesn't want to work as a "feeder" in the box-making plant, why doesn't he simply quit? Why in the world would he overload the machine, cause chaos, and leave under a cloud? It makes for a nifty scene, but it doesn't ring true. 3) If Harry wants to get back to work so badly, why doesn't he visit a doctor's office and get himself checked out? 4) Hold on - Howard was valedictorian in high school, and yet he has no plans for post-secondary education or a career besides writing stories and detailing cars? Come to think of it, if Howard was so fucking smart, wouldn't he possess some basic knowledge about the science of carbonation? (See: "What Did I Learn?")

Rating: I wanted to like Harry and Son a lot more than I did. It's a small, character-driven drama featuring a solid performance from Newman, as well as cameo appearances from a young Ellen Barkin, Morgan Freeman, Ossie Davis, and Wilford Brimley. Unfortunately, this movie suffers from a number of major problems.

The film might have worked a lot better had it focused like a laser beam on the tensions between Harry and his son, Howie (Robbie Benson) along the lines of I Ought to Be in Pictures. Instead, Newman is off-screen for long stretches, and when he does appear, it becomes increasingly difficult to like the old bastard - especially after he plays an incredibly nasty "joke" on his daughter. It's up to Benson to carry the movie, yet he isn't a terribly good actor, and he plays Howie with such a ridiculous manic energy that you have to wonder what Newman - the Director - was thinking. Another problem is the dizzying array of ideas, characters and sub-plots that are introduced and then discarded (or at least never really developed); that's bad writing, and Newman - the writer - deserves criticism. 5.5/10 stars.

Torn Curtain (1966)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #8

Synopsis: Implausibly charming-and-handsome scientist bangs Mary Poppins and defects to the commies.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Paul Newman and Julie Andrews star in this classic tale of international espionage set behind the Iron Curtain.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, even if you were wanted by the secret police, it was super-easy to travel from Leipzig to Berlin in mid-1960s East Germany.

Really?: 1) Um...where are the Soviets? Are we supposed to believe that a well-known American scientist - with a background in designing missiles and guidance systems - could simply defect to East Germany without a thorough interrogation by the KGB? 2) So wait...Armstrong (Newman) asks Sarah (Julie Andrews) to marry him, just before he's set to publicly defect to the Eastern bloc? 3) Um...couldn't Dr. Koska have come up with a better idea for getting Armstrong's attention than tripping him down some stairs? 4) Funny how Armstrong and Sarah get around so well in East Germany, considering neither of them sprechen any Deutsch. And would an entire theatre full of East Germans immediately behave like panicked children if somebody shouted "fire" (in English) and there wasn't any visible smoke or flames?  

Rating: Torn Curtain was one of Alfred Hitchcock's least-favourite directing jobs, as he apparently fought with nearly everyone: Newman, the writers, the studio, the musical director, etc... As a method actor, Newman isn't given much to do in this plot-driven thriller, Andrews seems mis-cast as Newman's clueless assistant, neither of them enjoy any chemistry together, and the dialogue is flat. Torn Curtain isn't a great movie by any stretch, but it actually isn't all that bad for an evening's entertainment. 6/10 stars.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hud (1963)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #7

Synopsis: It's like a really stripped-down version of Dallas, except the Ewings don't have any money, and JR's always drunk and surly.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Paul Newman is Hud, a man at odds with his father, tradition and himself. Hud’s only interests are fighting, drinking, hot-rodding his Cadillac and womanizing.”

What Did I Learn?: West Texas looks pretty bleak and depressing when it's filmed in black-and-white...oh wait, I learned that from The Last Picture Show!

Really?: After his gazillionth barroom brawl, wouldn't the local cantinas simply refuse to serve Hud any booze, and wouldn't the cops eventually throw his ass in jail?  

Rating: Paul Newman delivers one of his greatest performances as an often nasty, yet strangely sympathetic antihero in Hud. Apparently, Newman set out to portray the title character as a villain, and was later surprised to find that many young people identified with him, rather than with Hud's virtuous-and-strict father. That's not surprising, as Newman does a magnificent job of fleshing out the character, and the writing is top notch; my jaw dropped, and I experienced a "holy shit" moment when Hud's father remarks: "little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire." Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Towering Inferno (1974)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #6

Synopsis: It's basically The Poseidon Adventure done vertically... and OJ Simpson saves a cat!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A dedication ceremony at the world’s tallest skyscraper turns into a high-rise catastrophe when a defective wire in its systems-control panel causes an electrical flare-up. Within minutes, the gala event turns into a hellish inferno, as a raging fire traps society’s most prominent citizens on the top floor.”

What Did I Learn?: Anyone who enjoys illicit sex in a disaster movie can expect to be among the first to be burnt to a crisp.

Really?: 1) Hmmm... for a hot-shot architect with detailed knowledge of electrical wiring, Roberts (Newman) doesn't seem to know very much about gas. 2) It sure is fortunate they decided to build that monstrosity with a zillion gallons of water on the 135th floor... and that the H2O flows vertically downward when the tanks are blown, rather than directly out the first available glass windows.

Rating: Produced by Irwin Allen, The Towering Inferno is very much a rip-off of The Poseidon Adventure, right down to similar characters (precocious young brother and sister, a kindly old man with money troubles, a greedy cost-cutter who gets everyone into trouble, etc...) and even a few instrumental bars of "The Morning After". Newman once referred to this film as a "turkey," because working with Steve McQueen wasn't easy (the latter insisted upon a contract clause which ensured the two of them had exactly the same number of dialogue lines), and the script is hackneyed and clichéd... the term "high-rise roulette" is a prime example, but check out this exchange:

Doug Roberts: I'm not a cheeseburger.

Susan: No, you're way better, all protein, no bread, now all I need to take with you is eight glasses of water.

In spite of the awful writing, however, The Towering Inferno isn't really a bad movie - it's mindless fun for a rainy Sunday afternoon. 6/10 stars.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Color of Money (1986)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #5

Synopsis: Wily old fart and dumb-as-a-post precocious kid discover America in a series of run-down pool halls.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Paul Newman, one of Hollywood's greatest stars, and Tom Cruise, one of its hottest new talents, ignite the screen in this powerful drama."

What Did I Learn?: “Pool excellence is *not* about excellent pool.”  2) “The balls roll funny for everybody.” 3) “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” 4) “You gotta have two things to win. You gotta have brains and you gotta have balls.”
 You Might Like This Movie If: You know that cocky and obnoxious come naturally to Newman's co-star.

Really?: 1) Gee...Eddie sure enjoys wearing those tinted sunglasses, even in darkened rooms. 2) I had a hard time believing Eddie - who has been away from billiards for 25 years, and has finally made it back to a big tournament - would forfeit his place in order to play his former protégé. 3) So wait... we wait and wait to see Eddie take on Vince (Cruise) in a game of billiards, and then... [No Spoilers].  4) So, does Vince ever take Eddie's advice, even once?

Rating: The Color of Money is an entertaining, although somewhat formulaic, predictable, and probably unnecessary sequel to The Hustler. Newman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Fast Eddie Felson (whether he deserved it for this movie, or whether he was due for one is open for debate) Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is good in a surprisingly well-developed role as Vince's older, tougher and much smarter girlfriend, and even Cruise isn't all that bad. Look for appearances by Forrest Whittaker and John Turturro in small, before-they-were-famous roles. 7/10 stars.


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Hustler (1961)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #4 (Please click the link to read my review of Poolhall Junkies)

Synopsis:  Lowlife alpha males think with their sticks.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "The masterpiece that propelled Newman to stardom!"

What Did I Learn?: It's easy to pick up alcoholic chicks at the bus station.

You Might Like This Movie If: You dig this groovy song.

Really?: 1) Hold on... Fast Eddie is up $18,000, he's been playing for 25 hours straight, he can barely stand up, and yet he wants to keep playing because Minnesota Fats hasn't said "uncle"? Couldn't he just say: "I'll give you a re-match tomorrow, but I need some sleep"? Who would do that? 2) So, Fast Eddie knows the word is out on him, and Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) even warns him about hustling pool in the wrong joint, but he just HAS to humiliate those hooligans? I could understand that behaviour if Eddie is a punk kid, but I thought he had been around the block a few times.

Rating: The Hustler is generally regarded as one of Newman's best films, and it features fine performances from Piper Laurie, George C. Scott (as a very un-Pattonesque scumbag gambler), Jackie Gleason as the legendary Minnesota Fats, and Mr. Salad Dressing himself. The Hustler is a good movie, but it tends to drag in places, especially when the action focuses on the relationship between Fast Eddie his drunk girlfriend. I kept thinking: "less mush with the lush, more chats with Fats." 8.5/10 stars.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Sting (1973)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #3 (Please click the link to read my review of that other Newman/Redford collaboration)

Synopsis:  Butch and Sundance trade in their stetsons and six-shooters for fedoras and smooth-talking bullshit.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Winner of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Sting is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed films of all time. Set in the 1930s, this intricate comedy caper deals wtih an ambitious small-time crook (Robert Redford) and a veteran con-man (Paul Newman) who seek revenge on the vicious crime lord (Robert Shaw) who murdered on of their gang."

What Did I Learn?: Con artists are warm, intensely loyal, and loveable scamps who spend their time taking real criminals down a peg or two.

Really?: 1) So, Hooker (Redford’s character) has a gambling problem. This is introduced early on, and it never once becomes an issue. 2) Wait – Lonigan’s goons are looking for Hooker, and he’s never played the Big Con before, yet Gondorff (Newman) uses him to gain Lonigan’s trust? That seems really dumb, considering he could have used any number of more experienced con men.   3) I realize Lt. Snyder wants some payback, but doesn’t he have duties back in Joliet? Can he just travel to Chicago and chase down Hooker for what – a week? Maybe longer? 4) Hold on – Snyder beats up Joe Erie (a buddy of Hooker’s from Joliet) in front of all the other con artists, and nobody thinks to ask Joe what he wanted, or why he did that? 5) Holy shit, how much money do these guys spend on this con, and where did they get it? 6) So... we're supposed to believe that Salino (the assassin hired by Lonigan) kills Lonigan's goon, and wastes two days working in a shitty diner when it would have been super-easy to kill Hooker on any number of occasions? 7) Hmm... take a drink every time Hooker winds up getting chased, either by the scummy cop, or by one of Lonigan's hitmen.

Rating: The Sting is my Dad's favourite movie, so I feel the need to tread somewhat lightly in this review. Newman, Redford and Shaw ("Ya follah?") are all quite good, there are a number of memorable moments, and the story is a lot of fun. This film richly deserved its Best Picture Oscar, although I can't give it a perfect score for three reasons: a) there are a few too many "Really?" moments for my taste, b) the chase scenes get old, fast, and c) the Scott Joplin soundtrack will start to grate on you after about half an hour. Couldn't George Roy Hill have chosen some authentic music from the 1930s instead of the Joplin tunes that were released about 25 years earlier? Still, The Sting is highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Road to Perdition (2002)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #2 (Ok, this is really a Tom Hanks film, but Newman has an important role)

Synopsis:  It’s 117 minutes of Tom Hanks in dark, drippy rooms.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks in 'one of his best performances' (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) stars as Michael Sullivan, a father fighting to keep his only son from travelling the Road to Perdition". [WTF? This is the dumbest write-up I've ever seen... Sullivan's family has been murdered, and he and the kid are actually on their way to Perdition. Sullivan's driving, as a matter of fact!]

What Did I Learn?: If you've just stolen thousands (possibly hundreds of thousand) of dollars from the Chicago mob, and they promise to let you live if you stop annoying them - you might want to fuck off to California, or Hawaii, or Canada, or some other faraway place, just to be on the safe side. Just saying... [Ok, this is more of a "Really?"]

Really?: 1) Come on...does Sullivan seriously think Rooney (Newman) is going to give up his son for execution? 2) Hmm... funny how a trained assassin fires his Tommy Gun at a mob boss and his 5-6 stooges, and not one of them thinks of dropping to the ground or running for cover.

Rating: Road to Perdition is grim with a capital G. It's an impressive film, with excellent performances from Hanks, Newman and Jude Law as creepy hitman Harlan Maguire, but it's also bleak and humourless, and the Connor Rooney character (Daniel Craig) is introduced, yet never fully developed; perhaps he could have accompanied Maguire on the hunt? Just a suggestion... 7/10 stars.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Slap Shot (1977)

Paul Newman Film Fest Movie #1

Synopsis: Harsh hockey honcho hustles hotheaded headliners, humours hopeless hamlet, harms hostile hooligans.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This irreverent and outrageously funny look into the world of professional hockey has Paul Newman as the coach of the Chiefs, a third-rate, minor league hockey team. To build up attendance at their games, management signs up three odd-looking players whose job it is to literally attack and demolish the opposition, to the delight and cheers of the steadily increasing throng of fans.”

What Did I Learn?: Openly questioning the sexual orientation of the opposing goalie's wife is an effective means of scoring a goal or two.

Really?: Slap Shot is an often-silly film, and it might not be entirely fair to judge it on this basis. That said, I had a hard time believing the Chiefs could get away with even a fraction of their violent shenanigans without winding up in prison, or at least getting suspended from the "Federal League".   

Rating: Oh dear... I have a feeling the reaction to this review is going to be a replay of those occasions when I reviewed Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gosford Park. I realize there are hockey fans out there who consider Slap Shot to be a cinematic masterpiece. Unfortunately, I've never been into the sport, so I'll be truthful and admit this isn't one of my favourites.
Slap Shot isn't a bad movie, but it often doesn't seem to know if it's supposed to be clever satire or a dopey comedy for sugared-up rugrats. Newman is great as a world-weary player/coach who does his best to play a losing hand, and the film takes an unsentimental, cynical look at minor league hockey. That said, Slap Shot is marred by some very juvenile and low-brow humour, and there are more than a few occasions when it becomes difficult to like Newman's character. 6.5/10 stars.

Queens Logic (1991)

Synopsis: Imagine a warm, funny, well-written character-driven comedy-drama featuring four knuckleheads channeling Tony Danza from Who's the Boss?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This wonderful, romantic comedy, reminiscent of The Big Chill, takes a warm and hilarious look at friendship, loyalty and love.” [Really - The Big Chill? Interestingly, that's also how the studios marketed Smoke.]

What Did I Learn?: Guys, if you're extremely late for your wedding anniversary dinner, you can't walk through the door, all smiles and chuckles, and pretend that everything's ok.

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to understand the logic of Queen's.

Really?: 1) It's heartwarming and lovely that this collection of macho, blue-collar Italian-American New York guys would enjoy a friendship with a salt-of-the-earth gay man (John Malkovich). Heartwarming and lovely, but somewhat unlikely. 2) Is it just me, or are Dennis (Kevin Bacon) and Vinny (Tony Spiridakis) pretty much the same character? It seems to me that one of them could have been written out of the script.

Rating: Queens Logic is a quirky, yet sadly-forgotten little film from the early 1990s. Joe Montegna provides a fine performance as the larger-than-life Al, while Jamie Lee Curtis makes a memorable cameo appearance as a chick who isn't entirely right in the head, and Malkovich nearly steals the movie with a scene near the end when he tells off his snobby boyfriend. The film has its problems - it takes awhile to get started, Dennis and Vinny are basically the same character, and the swimming pool scene doesn't exactly work, but Queens Logic is worth a viewing. 7.5/10 stars.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"ffolkes" (aka North Sea Hijack) (1979)

Not Quite a James Bond Movie

Synopsis: It's just like a James Bond movie, except that 007 is a grumpy, cat-loving, bearded misanthrope who does needlepoint in his spare time.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Rufus Excalibur ffolkes is an eccentric underwater saboteur who can’t stand women but who loves cats. Lou Kramer is a psychotic madman who’s determined to blow up the largest oil rig in the North Sea unless the British Government pays him a king’s ransom.”

What Did I Learn?: A vermillion wetsuit is a bit of a liability during a nighttime underwater commando mission.

Really?: 1) Funny how none of the villains are the slightest bit afraid of getting blown to smithereens, even though they're criminals, and not terrorists. 2) I realize ffolkes is supposed to be a misogynistic asshole, but I had a bit of trouble believing he would speak that way to a female Prime Minister, or that she wouldn't simply hang up the phone on him and call in the Americans. 3) It's a good thing Anthony Perkins doesn't push that button, just for shits and giggles, isn't it?

Rating: "ffolkes" is a very offbeat thriller, featuring Roger Moore playing against type, James Mason as a stuffy British admiral, and a nice performance from Anthony Perkins as the psycho (sic) leader of an organized crime ring. "ffolkes" is a bit slow to get going and quite low-budget, but it's a well-written, and often funny little film. 7/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gold (1974)

Not Quite a James Bond Movie

Synopsis: It's just like a James Bond movie, except that 007 has a shitty middle-management gig in the natural resources sector, and he never shoots anyone.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "A tough mining foreman, Roger Moore, is manipulated by a group of unscrupulous financiers who want to flood the mine to raise the price of gold on the world market."

What Did I Learn?: If you think there's a chance you can sweet-talk your boss' wife into bed, you might want to first clean up the empty champagne bottle and other detritus from your casual encounter with another chick the previous night.

You Might Like This Movie If: You have an unhealthy obsession with gold.

Really?: 1) It takes a very cosmopolitan villain to use his own wife as a means of distracting the hero. 2) Gee...Steyner and his accomplice meet a rather convenient end, don't they? 3), Steyner promotes Slater to General Manager, and Slater then proceeds to hit on Mrs. Steyner? Great idea, 007.  

Rating: Gold is a dated, and somewhat forgettable thriller from the mid-1970s. While it's fun to watch Roger Moore play Bond without actually playing Bond, the script meanders when it focuses on Slater's relationship with Steyner's wife, and most disappointingly,  Slater never uncovers the secret plot, and never realizes until the end that he's being used. The script should have included a lot more detective work, and a lot less romance in the bush. 5.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Matador (2005)

Not Quite a James Bond Movie (I don’t like any of the Pierce Brosnan 007 films, so I won’t be reviewing them – ever. That said, I think Brosnan is a talented actor, and he’s great in The Matador. I wish he could have played Bond a bit more like the way he portrays Julian).

Synopsis:  It's a bit like Grosse Point Blank, except that Martin - the assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold - meets Barney Rubble instead of Minnie Driver.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: "Lonely hit man Julian (Pierce Brosnan in a Golden Globe - nominated performance) and struggling salesman Danny Wright (Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear) form an unexpectred bond during a chance meeting in a Mexican bar."

What Did I Learn?: 1) According to the main character, two things taste better in Mexico: margaritas and cock. 2) Killing people can be a good time.

Really?: 1) Danny seems surprisingly eager/willing to help out Julian near the end of the movie, yet he doesn't seem to need any reassurance that the target is a bad guy, rather than just another corporate victim. 2) Wouldn't Julian's agency realize that burnout is common among assassins and plan for it?

Rating: The Matador is a funny, clever, character-driven, and very well-written black comedy about friendship. Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis are both quite good, but Brosnan provides a tour-de-force performance as the scummy-yet-strangely likeable Julian. I'm not sure I entirely bought Danny's willingness to assist in the assassination of a fellow human being, so I can't give this film a perfect score, but it is highly recommended. 9/10 stars.