The Tailor of Panama

Review Date:
Director: John Boorman
Writer: John Boorman, John LeCarre, Andrew Davies
Producers: John Boorman
Geoffrey Rush
Pierce Brosnan
Jamie Lee Curtis
A disgraced British spy is sent to Panama to dig up some dirt on the latest governmental regime. He quickly strikes a deal with a debt-ridden tailor, by which money would be exchanged for information that the tailor overhears from his distinguished clientele. But how much of what the tailor is saying is actually true and how far will this information ultimately go? See the movie for more of those details…
Pierce Brosnan playing a British spy? Say it ain’t so! Poor guy, I hope that he does eventually work his way out of this typecast-from-hell role, but 007 aside, let’s break this puppy down. I didn’t know anything about this movie going in, and seeing it under the naked eye was quite refreshing indeed. I’m generally interested in most films which offer insight into different countries, different religions, cultures, and this one puts you right in the thick of things down in Panama. The story is intriguing, the performances, nicely done on the whole, and the conclusion, most fascinating and hilarious to see wind down. On the negative tip, the film did feel a little redundant at about the halfway point (although it picked up near the end), has a couple of underdeveloped characters, notably Jamie Lee Curtis, who felt more like window dressing (Can someone please light Ms. Curtis’ left boob? Okay, action!), and didn’t do much for Brosnan’s attempt to stretch his acting muscles away from his staple character, but all in all, the negatives weren’t all that bad.

In fact, on the whole, the film was actually quite amusing. And despite it being set more as a “drama” per se, the film ultimately turns into a major type of flick, as the lies pack onto the facades, the bribes onto the blackmailings, until almost no one really knows what end is up anymore. There’s also a re-occurring conscience character who pops in and out from time to time, and keeps things light-hearted. But you have to go in knowing that this film does not have any action, elongated car chases or fistfights. It’s a political drama, with some tense moments, lots of intrigue, lots of maneuvering about, some ironic humor and generally entertaining results. I’d also have to give a major nod to its star, Geoffrey Rush, who plays the sap trapped in the middle of all of this international manipulation (but does he know it?) very well. It was funny to see him squirm from scene to scene, and he reminded me a lot of William H. Macy’s Oscar nominated character from FARGO (7/10). Another great showing by Rush! In fact, the whole relationship between the disgraced spy and the shaky tailor was the cornerstone of the film, as each man so obviously tried to overcome the failures of their respective pasts.

So if politics and the spy-game interest you in the least, this film should definitely delight you to some extent. But even if you’re just looking for a pretty original story, told via certain familiar routes, and an ultimately fascinating denouement, you should also check this trickster out. The “humor” might not be appreciated by everyone, since it really isn’t an “in your face” type of funny, but as a whole, I think that the film develops enough successful elements to satisfy most film fans.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian