(2005)3.5Derek ArmstrongRichard Shepard's The Matador got a raw deal when it was released on DVD. In an apparent attempt to goose rentals by seducing the James Bond fans walking the aisles at Blockbuster, the Weinstein Company changed the movie's poster art from the sublime greens and oranges of the theatrical original to the dumbed-down, iconic images of an actioner: flames, voluptuous women, and guys in sunglasses with guns. By doing that, they probably alienated the true audience for this smart little indie that happens to involve a hitman -- which Pierce Brosnan undoubtedly considered a total departure from Bond. The Matador is the story of the unlikely relationship that develops between two men on two very different business trips to Mexico, and it plays out in three distinct settings, all more or less devoid of action. That, of course, is a good thing. The hitman losing his touch is an old cinematic device by now, but Brosnan and Shepard give it invigorating new life here. Brosnan's Julian Noble is an erratic delight -- fascinatingly, this is the most unsettling and the most funny the actor has ever been, both in the same movie. Greg Kinnear is more than equal to the task of navigating this enigma, with varying degrees of willingness, while also juggling his own share of personal and professional stumbling blocks. Hope Davis also shines as the film's only other major character, especially during a startling Christmas Eve visit by Julian, which leaves her uncertain whether to be charmed or chilled. The heart of Shepard's movie is a core of long, intimate conversations between the characters in which relationship politics are an uneasy constant, pregnant with danger. Yet true bonds emerge between them under circumstances that feel both exotic and commonplace. Here's hoping the action fans were unexpectedly nourished by it.