11 February 2009

DVD: "The Tailor of Panama" - Special Edition

The Tailor of Panama
Directed by John Boorman
Screenplay by Andrew Davies and John le Carre and John Boorman
Based upon the novel by John le Carre
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis Brendan Gleeson, Catherine McCormack, Leonor Varela and Harold Pinter
DVD Release Date: 11 September 2001
MPAA Rating: R (For Strong Sexuality, Language and Some Violence)
List Price: $9.95

The Film
Andy Oxnard (Brosnan) is a down-and-out spy on the verge of expulsion when he is assigned to Panama.  Ever the opportunist, he reviews the files of British citizens living in the country and finds Harry Pendel.  Pendel works as a top tier tailor, hobknobbing with the rich and powerful, though Andy knows Harry's secret: He is a complete fraud.  Harry is a congenital liar, and Andy exploits this for his own purpose of setting up a cozy retirement for himself by spinning one story after another concerning a post-Noriega uprising that threatens the security of the canal.

John Boorman not only directed, he produced the film and had a hand in writing the screen adaptation of John le Carre's novel.  His commentary track covers all three aspects, discussing why he shot certain scenes a certain way, how they arranged to even shoot in some locations and some of the choices they made about what from the novel to keep and what to drop.  Otherwise, there is only one featurette, "The Perfect Fit: A Conversation with Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush" about the two actors discussing their insights into the characters and the film itself.  The original ending is presented with and without commentary (though Boorman only talks over the beginning of the clip).  The original, spoiler-laden theatrical trailer is included, as is a trailer for Les Miserables starring Rush, and filmographies for the principal cast and Boorman.

The Recommendation
You could be forgiven for missing The Tailor of Panama in its theatrical run, because it was rather limited, and you could also be forgiven for not standing in line to buy the DVD on its day of release since the whole world had more important matters that day.  There are several fourth-wall moments that come because of Pierce Brosnan playing the spy (remember, this came out just prior to his third James Bond outing, The World Is Not Enough), and the cast is at times distracting.  Daniel Radcliffe plays Harry's son, so at some point it dawns on you that you've got James Bond, Captain Barbossa and Harry Potter all in the same film; plus, Gleeson and McCormack were both in Braveheart together, so that is also distracting.  Still, the story is sheer fun and Brosnan radiates charm (despite playing a completely unredeemable character).  Fans should take time to read the original novel, as I have found the two versions are really supplemental to one another, each spotlighting different parts of the overall story.

Also, if you happen to live near a Big Lots, word has it that this DVD has shown up lately for $3.oo.  I would certainly recommend it as a blind buy at that price.  Fans of the leads or the genre should consider this at full price; others should rent first to make sure it's not too much for them.

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