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Immoral and ruthless British spy Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) has been banished to a low-priority posting in Panama after seducing his boss' wife. Osnard figures that the local English tailor, Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) would make an ideal intelligence source, and enlists him with the help of a little blackmail about Harry’s past, of which even Mrs Pendel, Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) is ignorant. Enticed by money from Osnard which would help pay his debts, Pendel invents a story to feed the intelligence machinery which enables Osnard to extract large sums of money for an imaginary rebel army in Panama. But the story spins out of control, propelling Osnard and Harry into danger.

In 1972 John Boorman made Deliverance. It’s still the best thing he’s done, a suspense-driven character drama based on a strong story. While The Tailor of Panama is ambitious, it fails the storytelling test, the character test and the tension test. Nor is the story all that great (at least as it comes across in the screenplay; haven’t read the book), and comes across as a thinly veiled satire on American foreign policy and the intelligence community (diplomats included) masquerading as an exotic, comic spy drama. As for the sex scenes between Brosnan’s Osnard and McCormack’s American diplomat, the less said the better. Le Carré is a spy story master, but he’s not well transposed here, and the characters – with the exception of Jamie Lee Curtis’ strong willed Louisa – are perfunctory or forced. Even our great international star Geoffrey Rush is dimmed by the material and direction, sliding from oafish London spiv to enterprising expatriate to bumbling spy with just enough conviction to make the film watchable. Pierce Brosnan is burdened with a caricature character, beautiful Leonor Varela is made to look a little ridiculous (both in the present and flashbacks) and the ghost of Pendel’s old mentor (Harold Pinter) is a grotesque embarrassment. Even the Panamanian settings are under-utilised. Failing to fulfil its promise, The Tailor of Panama is not only unnecessarily convoluted but unexpectedly dull.
Andrew L. Urban

Plenty of local colour coupled with the enticing rhythms of Panama provide the backdrop: the film looks great and Philippe Rousselot's cinematography of the water-views over the Thames and the Panama are striking. Panama is the bewitching melting pot where ratbags in exile hang out. What a beguiling location for such a tale! But while there are some enjoyable moments, the collaboration between John Le Carré, Andrew Davies and John Boorman has not successfully brought together the elements for an engaging screenplay. They key element that doesn't work for me is that of Harry, the Tailor of the film title. I didn't believe the character or the performance by Geoffrey Rush, whose accent varies between London, Strine and Cockney. Harry is never properly established, and while we are told certain things about him, that isn't to say that we actually believe it. Some aspects of the character are almost caricature-like and Rush has been directed to produce a mannered performance. Clearly relishing the role of the British Secret Agent that isn't quite the suave James Bond or Thomas Crown, Pierce Brosnan gets his hands a little dirty with his down-to-earth arrogance; his crude Andy displays imperfections that are as obvious as his crumpled suit. Jamie Lee Curtis is marvellous as Louisa; she is totally believable and displays every subtlety and nuance to create a fully realised character. Also impressive is Brendan Gleeson as volatile Mickie, but Catherine McCormack doesn't appear comfortable in the role of the cool diplomat whose libido soars with little prompting from Osnard. But the chemistry is as cold as London in December, while the tension that should reach fever pitch by the story's climax is like a drizzle of rain. The actual story-telling elements are somewhat confused and by the end of the film: I don't really care what happens. Pity, it could have been so much more.
Louise Keller

A supremely gifted director, a roster of splendid performers and a deliciously intriguing plot add up to top-notch story-telling in The Tailor Of Panama. While this is not one of John Boorman's important films (e.g. Deliverance, Hope and Glory, The General) this adaptation of John Le Carre's spy-thriller is a cracking good yarn given added lustre by a master filmmaker in full command of his devices. Inspired casting finds Pierce Brosnan, in between James Bond assignments, playing a bottom of the barrel British spy whose disgrace lands him in the Panamanian backwater. There's a lot of enjoyment watching the incumbent 007 flooring the ‘conduct unbecoming’ pedal as he seduces embassy worker Francesca (Catherine McCormack), blackmails ex-con turned tailor Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) and attempts to seduce Harry's sturdy wife Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) - all in the name of his own (and definitely not Her Majesty's) best interests. Brosnan relishes the opportunity to sleaze it up and finds a perfect foil in Geoffrey Rush as the apparently hapless Harry. Rush is at his best as the desperado feeding Osnard half-truths and outright lies in order to save his own very flustered skin. A lesser performer may not have been able to invoke the sympathy we still feel for Harry even as he commits dreadful acts. The complicated series of intrigues that bring boozy former resistance hero Mickie Abraxas (Brendan Gleeson) and Harry's business manager Marta (Leonor Varela) into play are carried off with gusto by a director and cast clearly loving every minute of it but never losing sight of the corruption, treachery and legacy of the Noriega years about which the plot pivots. More than just the first film shot in Panama, this is a deliciously tricky tale and an absorbing character study that packs an enormous amount of detail and terrific entertainment value into 109 minutes.
Richard Kuipers

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CAST: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Catherine McCormack, Harold Pinter

DIRECTOR: John Boorman

PRODUCER: John Boorman

SCRIPT: John Boorman, Andrew Davies (screenplay) John Le Carré (novel and screenplay)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot

EDITOR: Ron Davis


MUSIC: Shaun Davey

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes



VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 16, 2002

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