A couple of years ago, Sony Pictures attempted to produce its own James Bond film apart from the series’ home at MGM. Warner Bros. had successfully made “Never Say Never Again” in the early 1980’s due to some shared copyrights for “Thunderball”, but the same circumstances didn’t quite work out for Sony. What would be the next logical course of action? Apparently to make the ANTI-James Bond flick. The anti-James Bond of course could only be portrayed by… Pierce Brosnan.
This time out, Brosnan is Andy Osnard. The only real difference between Bond and Osnard is that where 007 is smart and classy, Osnard is just kind of pathetic. Anyway, after royally screwing up an assignment, he’s packed off to join around 200 other citizens of the crown in the career purgatory of Panama. His only real task is to ensure the Canal doesn’t go anywhere or change hands. It doesn’t take Andy long to make the job far more complicated than it has any right to be. That complication turns out to be Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), the, yes, tailor of Panama.
Upon arrival, Andy needed a insider susceptible to manipulation for a rundown of the local players and other more sensitive information. Now the classy, smooth-talking Harry would seem to have it all: a beautiful American wife, Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis), two loving kids, a Saville Row background, and a clientele composed of every significant politician, banker, lawyer, and notable in town. Why would he get involved with a sleaze like Osnard? As it turns out, Harry’s pre-Panama existence is completely manufactured, unknown to Louisa, but very known to Andy. Harry can tell quite a few other stories just as convincingly. As Andy needs some kind of new intelligence to justify his existence, he initiates his interaction with Harry as a kind of game. Unfortunately, others begin to take Harry’s new story waaaaay too seriously. Misguided covert operations and military actions ensue.
Based on John Le Carre’s novel, this is a good story with some good ideas. Too bad the studio didn’t hire a good director. Yeah, I know. John Boorman directed “Point Blank”, “Deliverance”, “Excalibur”, and “Hope and Glory”. Well, he also made the deeply silly “Zardoz”, the deeply idiotic “The General”, and the deeply, deeply awful “Exorcist II: The Heretic”. “The Tailor of Panama” isn’t in the league of those stinkers, but it’s still a mess. Brosnan and Rush carry the film as best they can with excellent performances, but they can’t overcome the director’s indecision. Is this a black comedy? A satire? A tragedy? Unable to choose, Boorman just skips between the three, but very slowly so you’ll be able to notice. What’s the problem? It’s not like Boorman just now became smug and sloppy. I’m glad he has big ideas and meaning he likes to shoot for, but a bit more focus would help him to hit his mark. Instead we get another set of strong characters trapped in one of the filmmaker’s long line of wasted opportunities.