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The Tailor of Panama

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis and Catherine McCormack
Screenplay by Andrew Davies and John le Carré and John Boorman
Based on the novel by John le Carré
Directed by John Boorman

IN SHORT: An XL disappointment of a film that has no idea what story it wants to tell. [Rated R for Strong Sexuality, Language, Some Violence. 109 minutes]

As always, we don't compare to source material -- an audience member did that for us and you'll find her comment down below.

The British Secret Service just isn't what it used to be. For a generation raised on Ian Fleming novels, as Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) obviously was, the high life of women, women, women, and a bit of hushed whisperings of political intrigue just hasn't panned out. An embarrassment to MI6, Osnard is booted about as far away as his boss Luxmore (David Hayman) can put him: Panama. There, he is told to monitor the British interest as the Panama Canal enters the final stages of repatriation to its home country. Yep, it's 1999 and the right wing in the USofA wants to squash the deal returning the Canal. The Brits just want to ensure that free access continues. Osnard is sent to ferret out any information missed by the local embassy, which ticks off the Ambassador and his aides, one of whom is the very attractive, and equally stone cold, Francesca (Catherine McCormack)

The world of Andy Osnard (Brosnan), bereft of super secret world dominating organizations to battle, consists mainly of double entendre tinged dialog and an emphasis on sex over state security. It's an almost parody of James Bond and to both Brosnan and Boorman's credit, neither winks at the camera. They don't need to. Pierce Brosnan seems to have so much fun screwing with the 007 sexual image -- his character hangs out in prostitute hotels and gay bars -- that he lets rip with one of the most devil may care performances of his career. Andy's pickup line, "we could wait six months and regret that we waited, or we could start now and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out..." will find its way into the general circulation even as the film disappears into the video bins in the next hour or two. That depressing fate is inevitable because, given the list of A-names at the top of this page, The Tailor of Panama has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be.

Andy chooses as his "inside informant" Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) of Pendel and Braithwaite, tailors of Savile Row and Panama City. Harry does custom fittings for the most powerful men in the country. The Bankers. The Lawyers. The Politicians (and all of the Bankers and Lawyers and Politicians who are raking in the big bucks as Drug Dealers on the side). Thus, he is the logical man to tap into since men always spill their guts when their pants are down. <g> That, and Harry isn't really a high class man at all. He's an arsonist who learned the trade in prison and relocated to Panama to remake himself. He's done well, too, with an American wife Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) and two lovely kidlets. Louisa doesn't know of her husband's true past, nor does she know that her inheritance, invested by Harry in a local farm, is about to be lost. Andy offers cash and incentives and Harry has no choice. The"information" he provides, of the existence of a political "silent opposition" to the Panamanian government, led by Mickie Abraxas (Brendan Gleeson) electrifies London. The Brit embassy was under the impression that the one-time opposition leader, who lost his political fire after an extended incarceration, was now a useless drunk..

Which he is. Harry is making it all up because he needs the money and he feels the pressure and he can't tell his wife that he's lied to her about his past for years. There are a lot of places that John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama could go, based on what I've described so far. It could be a spy comedy. It could be a political spy thriller -- the film is based on a novel by and co-adapted by John le Carré, who knows how to write such things. It could also be a story of money pressures and family commitment. Harry's secretary was once savagely beaten by Noriega's goons and there's a lingering question in Louisa's mind as to Harry's faithfulness. In this case, though, the answer is definitely (d) none of the above.

The Tailor of Panama has all the feel of one of those 600 page novels that have vital materials chopped out of the story on the way to the big screen. It feels like it wants to be a Cold War type story. It feels like a parody of aspects of Bond. It features a normal middle class family and all the stress and joy that comes along for that ride. It feels very, very long. At the point where we started fidgeting in our seats, thinking "where is this thing going?" The Tailor of Panama started to go somewhere, but the outcome it delivered packed no punch.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Tailor of Panama, he would have paid...


Of note is the presence of playwright Harold Pinter in the cast, as Harry's "Uncle Benny" As the woman next to me put it in summary, The Tailor of Panama was "As boring as the book"

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