Boorman fails to intrigue us with 'Panama'
"The Tailor of Panama" with Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis. Directed by John Boorman. Written for the screen by Boorman, John le Carre and Andrew Davies. Based on the novel by le Carre. Rated: R, contains sexual scenes, physical violence. In Missoula (Wilma). **
When James Bond is about all there is for spy-movie lovers, any movie that promises international intrigue, double crosses and British intelligence is a happy occasion. For die-hard fans of the genre "The Tailor of Panama," which is based on a novel by John le Carre, provides mild entertainment (and you have to work hard to get all you can). For the rest, well, John Boorman's movie is sloppily assembled, acted on the fly and seemingly forgotten by its studio.
Pierce Brosnan plays Andy Oxnard, a piggish spy who is exiled to Panama as punishment for something he ruined before our story begins. Once in bustling, colorful Panama City, he settles on Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) as an accomplice to help him with a spy mission. Andy often eschews his spy duties for the sake of a good shag, and he's not adverse to hitting on other men's wives.
Perhaps Brosnan has been playing tuxedoed heroes for too long, because he just can't seem to get comfortable with his role as opportunistic lothario and selfish spy. Rush is much more engaging as the tailor with a secret past he's trying to keep from his adoring wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). He enjoys changing his accents, using a prim butler's voice for his life as the respectable tailor to gentlemen and then, as his past rears its head, turning decidedly Michael Caine-ish.
Andy and Harry play cat-and-mouse, each taking turns in the respective roles, and that should be the fun of "The Tailor of Panama," the focus switching between who is taking advantage of whom, but Boorman has made far too messy a film to be fun or engaging. An actor playing a dead man is visibly squeezing his eyes shut and breathing; Brosnan tries to slide his sunglasses into his pocket, missing a couple of times while the camera keeps running. Distractions such as these get in the way of following what is already a convoluted story, one that becomes more absurd when Jamie Lee Curtis's role takes on more prominence.
The appearance of Curtis heralds a kind of absurdity for any movie. Though she is a likeable presence on screen, her style of acting seems to be that of a mother appearing in her kids' school play.
"The Tailor of Panama" is lacking in smarts and lacking in style, a movie whose best stuff is filmed by the second unit director, vibrant outdoor street scenes of music and color. Boorman became a darling several years ago with "Hope and Glory," after establishing himself years before that with "Deliverance." But maybe it's time for him to step aside.