The Tailor Of Panama
With his inhumanly chiseled good looks and smarmy, practiced gentleman's charm, Pierce Brosnan has always come across as a second-rate James Bond, a low-rent, straight-to-video facsimile of the real thing. Yet those qualities add immeasurably to his inspired casting as a womanizing, opportunistic secret agent in John Boorman's The Tailor Of Panama, a sophisticated and witty adaptation of the John Le Carré novel. Boorman and Le Carré, who co-wrote the script with Andrew Davies, are fully aware of the 007 formula, exploiting its double-entendres, macho conquests, and conspicuous consumption to great comic effect. But their smartest touch is in playing off the audience's implicit trust in Brosnan's suave heroism by mixing his motives. Banished to Panama City for seducing the wives of the powerful elite, amassing huge gambling debts, and other assorted vices, Brosnan's amoral spy smacks his lips at the corruption ruling a place where the high rises are known as "cocaine towers" and the banks as "laundrettes." His ostensible purpose is to assure that the Panama Canal doesn't fall into the wrong hands, and to that end, he recruits well-connected tailor Geoffrey Rush to infiltrate the city's corridors of power. Rush, who has a shady past of his own, accepts the job to pay off the $50,000 he owes for an ill-advised farm investment, but his duties include spying on wife Jamie Lee Curtis, a banker with inside knowledge about canal dealings. Brosnan soon learns that General Noriega's late-'80s ouster did little to quell the widespread profiteering ("It's like they got rid of Ali Baba and forgot about the 40 thieves"), but he uncovers a "silent opposition" gaining force among the people. While Le Carré's diplomatic intrigue and Byzantine plotting are a challenge to follow off the page, Boorman shrewdly captures his bristling wit and stays true to his sharp critique of British and American arrogance and exploitation of underdeveloped countries. The Tailor Of Panama takes place in a "Casablanca without heroes," where honor and duty are useless commodities and everyone is duplicitous. Brosnan takes a huge and perhaps foolhardy risk in upending the Bond fantasy—fans will be especially enraged to discover that the few action sequences provide the film's most perfunctory moments—but Le Carré and Boorman are all too happy to expose the true source of 007's decadent ways.