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Introduction
When it comes to movie spies one name comes to mind - Bond. James Bond. British author Ian Fleming's daring, suave and debonair spy has gone through nineteen official adventures and a couple unofficial ones too. Although many different actors, including Sean Connery and Roger Moore, have played the character of James Bond, the last three Bond pictures have starred Pierce Brosnan. Pierce is the kind of man that women love despite not really doing much for us guys, who don't think of him as the action hero type. To me he just seems like a phoney playboy type that wouldn't really do anything an action hero would. Still, the James Bond films have made him a household name and the object of many ladies’ affections. Since his first appearance in 1995's "Goldeneye" Brosnan has stuck pretty close to the same character, playing variations on Bond in "The Thomas Crown Affair" and now "The Tailor of Panama", based on the John Le Carre novel of the same name.

Tailor of Panama, The: Special Edition
The Film
Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) is a British secret agent who's down on his luck. After botching his last assignment he finds that he has been significantly lowered in the ranks and has been assigned to Panama, which is not exactly the hot bed of activity he's used to. The main interest in Panama is ownership of the bridge of the Americas, which after a long time of being controlled by the US is to be returned to the government of Panama. Upon his arrival Andy needs to find a source that he feels has information that can help him. This turns out to be a tailor by the name of Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush). Harry has a natural gift for spinning stories and bases his whole existence in town on his reputation. Harry claims to be one half of a wealthy clothing company but this is just his cover as his past is far from ideal. In Harry's line of work he comes in contact with men of various importance, including the President, and as such is privy to sensitive information. Harry is also having some financial problems with a farm he purchased. Desperate for money Harry agrees to help Andy gain whatever information he can, but with his limited knowledge he's unsure exactly what that is. As it happens Harry's wife Lousia (Jamie Lee Curtis) is employed in the office of the President and often brings home documents marked private and confidential. As Andy begins to suspect he made a mistake Harry spins a yarn that there's a private group of citizens that plan to revolt against any action on the bridge. As Harry's story begins to take on a life of it's own and things get out of hand he begins to wonder what he's done.

Based on a novel by John Le Carre an author who has name recognition value with me only because of my father's books in the house, "The Tailor of Panama" is a dark comedy-drama with very little in the way of intense action sequences. "The Tailor of Panama is almost the polar opposite of the James Bond films. Instead of focusing primarily on action with the occasional comedic or dramatic moment this film handles things much the other way choosing to focus on the dramatic events with minimal action. It's a character driven spy tale.

This is very much an actors’ picture with a quality cast. Pierce Brosnan is able to shed his good guy hero image here and comes off as real arrogant jerk. Pierce, an actor that hasn't really strayed far from his typecast roles, seems to be enjoying the fact that he can still play a Bond like character but make him darker and less pleasant. This is something that Brosnan has been trying to convince the producers of the Bond films to do for sometime but has had no luck. Geoffrey Rush, an actor that is known for his excellent over the top portrayal of the Marquis De Sade in "Quills" and as a pianist in "Shine", is very good here as a man with a chequered past that comes back to haunt him. Rush plays the character to perfection, getting so wrapped in his own lies and stories that he himself doesn't know the truth. Jamie Lee Curtis is good in her small supporting role as Harry's wife who unknowingly causes part of the predicament her husband gets in by bringing home documents from the office. Catherine McCormack ("Braveheart") and Leonor Valera are good in their small supporting roles as well. Also look for Daniel Radcliffe from the upcoming "Harry Potter" films in a small role.

If a film has a strong cast then that can act as a major advantage when the film is lacking in other areas. That is the case with "The Tailor of Panama". The story at its most basic level is good and has the makings of something great. However the pacing and inclusion of many subplots really hamper this film. The film gets off to a rather slow start with the first 15 minutes seeming more like thirty or forty. After this mark, when the characters begin to get on with the story, things either move slow or really slow. The inclusion of unnecessary subplots manages on occasion to grind this film to a halt. The film also doesn't really know what's it's trying to do, moving from comedy to drama to comedy again. It's lacking uniformity. The satirical aspects of the film are often quite good but just when you’re ready for the next witty joke the gears change to a dramatic scene. Director John Boorman, who has directed some excellent pictures (Deliverance) and some downright awful ones (The Exorcist II : The Heretic), is never really on stable ground throughout the 109 minute running time, which seems longer then it really is.

The film did have a lot of possibility and a couple of built in audiences in followers of John Le Carre's work and fans of Brosnan. Marketed to look like a quasi James Bond movie, this film is anything but. Despite the strong performances of the leads, I can't get over the problems in the script and pacing to give this one anything higher then a moderate recommendation.

Tailor of Panama, The: Special Edition
Video
Columbia Tri-Star presents "The Tailor of Panama" in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is enhanced for anamorphic displays. Given that this film was released in the year 2001 it goes without saying that my expectations for the transfer were quite high. For the most part Columbia doesn't disappoint as the transfer has nice strong colours, a nice black level and accurate flesh tones. However there are a few questionable aspects that prevent this from being one of the studios better efforts of late. The transfer suffers from an inconsistent sharpness level and pixelation. Also rearing its head once again, in what's becoming a regular occurrence on Tri-star DVDs, is edge enhancement. Ideally I would prefer that a disc contain no edge enhancement techniques at all, but I would settle if Columbia used less. Edge enhancement is a big problem on any number of Columbia discs and it's one that needs to be addressed. Sure most other studios use this technique but not to the extent where it becomes annoying. Luckily for Columbia there aren't any print flaws or marks which is how it should be considering this film was in theatres just a few months back. This is an acceptable transfer but Tri-star has and can do much better.

Audio
Looking back to when I saw "The Tailor of Panama" during it's theatrical run, I remembered not being all that impressed by the sound mix. It wasn't a question of if being a bad presentation, because like 99% of all movies I see I viewed it at my favourite Megaplex where I trust the staff and talk with them on a regular basis. It had a mix that I thought was adequate for the film, but nothing all that impressive. For this DVD edition Columbia Tri-star offers "The Tailor of Panama" in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0.  Since I wasn't expecting much the audio on this disc took me by surprise. While it didn't change my overall opinion of the mix it did sound better then I remembered proving that either my memory is failing me or there may have actually been a problem at the theatre. The film's audio is very front focused and really doesn't use the surrounds as much as it could. When the surround channels are used there is very little ambience noise coming from them. The musical score comes through crystal clearly adding the only stellar aspect to the mix. Dialogue is recorded at a nice volume which comes as bit of a surprise considering Columbia often uses a fair amount of dialogue normalization on their mixes. The LFE channel is used to emphasize some key sequences but don't go looking for any real 'boom' sound from this disc. Technically this a great mix but creatively it's lacking anything to set it apart from the pack.

Extras
Columbia has released "The Tailor of Panama" under their Special Edition line of DVDs. While compared to some other soon to be released Tri-star SE's it's feature list may look lacking., it's still a fairly solid collection of features.

First up, and the highlight of the extra features section, is an audio commentary with director John Boorman. Boorman, who has directed over fifteen feature films and is best- known as the director of 1972's "Deliverance", talks mostly about the films characters and scenes. In general discussions of this sort have been done before and often tend to bore me as one can only take listening to what amounts to be the same thing so many times before losing his sanity. However Boorman managed to keep my interest throughout the films nearly two hour running time, which is not always an easy task. The most interesting parts of the commentary were the discussions about shooting the film on location in Panama as opposed to a cheaper more often used country. It's small details like this that make these commentaries tracks worthwhile. This track won't go down as the best I've ever listened to but it did manage to entertain me and that's a major plus. I doubt I'll revisit the commentary anytime soon.

In the way of deleted footage this DVD offers up only one deleted scene, which was the films original ending. I didn't mind the ending that was used in the final film, although it was a tad dark even for my liking. This new ending, which is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with optional commentary from the director, takes things even further and would have totally changed the pacing of the final minutes of the film.  While the finished cut's ending has its problems this one has even more and was rightfully left on the cutting room floor.

Perfect Fit: A Conversation Between Two Gentlemen is a fancy name for a twenty-five minute featurette consisting of interviews with stars Geoffrey Rush and Pierce Brosnan. The first five to seven minutes are quite interesting, but after that the way the segment was edited becomes rather annoying. Also the audio was recorded at a very low level, which made it hard to understand what was being said without drastically bumping up the volume. A good concept even though it runs a bit long and wasn't executed as well as it could be.

Lastly rounding out the disc we have the trailers for "The Tailor of Panama" and Les Miserables, which also stars Geoffrey Rush, both in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the standard cast/crew filmographies.

Tailor of Panama, The: Special Edition
Overall
"The Tailor of Panama" is not for everyone. Although it's possible to confuse this as some sort of James Bond take off, it's really nothing like 007. It's story and plot are not always perfect but the performances are really strong. Columbia's DVD offers good but not great audio/video and a decent set of extras. Fans of the film will no doubt want to pick up this Special Edition. Those of you who have yet to see the film would be wise to give the disc a rent before deciding to make a purchase.


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