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THE MATADOR – Rolfe Kent

December 30, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

thematadorOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

A rather peculiar buddy movie directed by Richard Shepard and starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, The Matador is about an unlikely friendship between two men who shouldn’t get along, but do. Brosnan plays Julian Noble, a burned-out hitman trying to perform a few last jobs before getting out of the business. One night in a Mexico City hotel bar, he encounters businessman Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), and strikes up a conversation. They click, and the next day Julian takes Danny to a bullfight – hence the movie title. Feeling enough of a connection to be able to open up to one another, Julian reveals to Danny that he’s an assassin. At first horrified, then fascinated, the two men part as friends, but never expect to see each other again – until Julian shows up at Danny’s Denver home a year later with a business proposition…

Following his Golden Globe nominated, Critics Award-winning success in 2004 with Sideways, Scottish composer Rolfe Kent finally seems to have cemented his position in the Hollywood hierarchy. His filmography already includes huge box-office successes such as Freaky Friday, Mean Girls and the Legally Blonde series, and he is at a point in his career when he is an automatically on the shortlist for any edgy Hollywood studio comedy which goes into production. The Matador is Kent’s fourth collaboration with director Shepard, after Mercy (1996), Oxygen (1999) and Mexico City (2000), and it’s gratifying to see him building up close composer-director collaborations. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, his musical contributions to the films he scores have been given short shrift when it comes to the accompanying soundtrack: in this case, just three score cues on an album full of songs.

“Manila Fiasco” is a sassy orchestral march, accentuated with a wide variety of rattling and shaking percussion instruments; “Matador Theme” is a sly comedy jaunt featuring (among other things) a duduk, a cimbalom, and middle-eastern drums; “One Night in Mexico” changes things a little, presenting a more dramatic and moody aspect with pianos, dark string writing, and ominous timpani hits, before returning to the light-heartedness of the rest of the score before the end. Quite how these three short cues work up in the entire score remains unknown – it’s difficult to judge from only hearing 8 minutes – but it’s at least good that they gave some air-time to Kent’s work, however brief. He’s a talented composer, and needs more exposure.

Some of the songs are classics – The Jam’s “A Town Called Malice” was a high-energy rebellious anthem when it was first released in 1982, and Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual” made a hip-swiveling, pelvis-thrusting, leather pant-wearing Welshman a star. I’ve always been a fan of 80’s big-hair rock music, so I got a kick out of hearing Asia’s “In the Heat of the Moment” again. Some of the Mariachi/Mexican/Spanish efforts are pretty catchy, especially the toe-tapping “El Matador”, performed by the wonderfully named Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and the lovely “A Mi Guitarra”, one of three tracks written by the popular Latin artist Daniel Indart. The vocal performance by “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” by Dave Van Norden is also great, effortlessly recapturing the style of the classic crooners of the 1950s.

While Kent’s score may be perfectly adequate in the context of the film, and while the three short cuts included here are fun, it is nevertheless a severe underrepresentation of his work, and as such fails to make an impact or leave much of an impression on CD. The songs are fine, and it’s always nice to hear classics again, but the majority of the selections never come close to breaking any new ground, and are pretty much redundant for anyone who has any kind of decent pop and rock collection sitting alongside their film music CDs. Ultimately, The Matador has very little to lift is above the dozens and dozens of other “music from and inspired by…” soundtracks sitting on the shelves, unless you happen to be a die-hard fan of one of the artists who has to have EVERYTHING they do.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • A Town Called Alice (written by Paul Weller, performed by The Jam) (2:54)
  • El Matador (written by Ciaranciarulo, performed by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) (4:35)
  • It’s Not Unusual (written by Gordon Reed and David Mills, performed by Tom Jones) (2:00)
  • 1,2,3,4 (written by Emilio Acevedo, Javier Fernando de la Cueva, Dave Ganz, Julian Lede and Bob Meyer, performed by Titan) (4:13)
  • Manila Fiacso (2:38)
  • Garbageman (written by Lux Interior and Ivy Rotschach, performed by The Cramps) (3:35)
  • In the Heat of the Moment (written by Geoffrey Downs and John Wetton, performed by Asia) (3:50)
  • Bahia Blanca (written by Daniel Indart, performed by Ramon Stagnaro) (3:03)
  • A Mi Guitarra (written and performed by Daniel Indart) (2:49)
  • Matador Theme (2:42)
  • One Night in Mexico (2:39)
  • In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (written by Bob Hillard and David Mann, performed by Dave Van Norden) (3:13)
  • No Te Rajes (written by Daniel Indart, performed by Mariachi ‘La Estrella’) (3:03)

Running Time: 41 minutes 20 seconds

Superb Records SPB-2611 (2005)

Music composed by Rolfe Kent. Recorded and mixed by Scott Cochran. Edited by Nick South. Album produced by Shiro Gutzie and Richard Glasser.

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