The Tailor of Panama (2001)

THE TAILOR OF PANAMA is yet another spy movie for suave Pierce Bros-
nan, the Actor Currently Known as James Bond and who hasn't appeared 
in a decent double-oh effort since signing onto the thing.  Here, he 
scores at least a *half*-success as a ruder, cruder British Secret 
Service agent, an MI6 operative banished to Panama City-- that's in 
Panama-- and where he promptly pairs himself up with Geoffrey Rush's 
ex-con turned expert tailor.  The former seeks the skinny on the ci-
ty's shadier sorts; the latter is both strapped for cash and keenly 
interested in keeping his criminal past hidden.  (Also in the mix:  
Jamie Lee Curtis as Rush's character's wife-- yeah, right-- and ca-
nal operations executive, Brendan Gleeson as some soused, shave-and-
a-haircut-needing ex-freedom fighter, and a couple others.)  

Adapting John LeCarre's novel about American interest in reclaiming 
control of the canal-- and the many greased palms and double-cros-
sings that ensue-- the plot is more confusing than intriguing.  Nice 
third-world realism, though, adding both scenic and sometimes unset-
tling touches.  We even learn a little about tailoring!  (See a pat-
tern here?  Ha!  Or at least a thread??  Ha!!  Oh, how I leave them 
in stitches...)  There's also a curious preponderance of sex scenes, 
most involving Brosnan Making the Beast with Two Backs, and an en-
tire film's worth of CASABLANCA references.  (The best, by far, be-
ing a last-minute line about the beginnings of a "beautiful friend-
ship," accompanied by Yours Howling at an otherwise stone-silent, 
Tuesday-evening screening.  No one else "got it.")

At least the actors are fun to watch in this one.  Rush does some 
fine fussbudgetry here and there, despite an otherwise inconsistent 
characterization.  Curtis is a stronger, sexier presence, if utter-
ly unbelievable as a physical mate for Rush.  (Her clingy-written 
character doesn't do her any justice, either.)  The VIP, of course, 
is Senor Brosnan, all dashingly dangerous as he skirts about, lewd-
ly eying every long- (or short!) legged bird in sight, his devilish 
character appropriately breathing smoke from the cigarette he's al-
ways smoking.  (And such language, Mr. Brosnan!  Do you kiss Miss 
Moneypenny with that mouth?)  Several well-known character actors 
add a comfortable familiarity, too, like Jon Polito, the jowliest 
actor ever, as a corrupt Panamanian banker.  And, look, there's one 
of the old regulars from "Miami Vice."  

John Boorman directs and directs broadly, trying for a full range of 
emotions, from death squad-inspired terror (yawn) to outright slap-
stick.  Such as an absolutely priceless scene of B'n'R talking bid' 
ness in a brothel, on a vibrating bed, and with nude bodies writing 
about on the tele in the background.  (Their later booty-shaking on 
a gay bar dance floor rates a close second...)  'Tis *too* broad of 
a movie, ultimately, one that wants to be both serious *and* silly.  
And that's never easy to pull off, 'specially with opening credits 
written with a "Brady Bunch"-style font face.  What's up with 
*that*?  With Leonor Varela, Catherine McCormack, Daniel Radcliffe, 
and Frank Langella look-alike Harold Pinter in flashback as "Uncle 
Benny."  (Rated "R"/109 min.)

Grade: C-

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros