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The Tailor Of Panama

The Tailor Of Panama
The Tailor Of Panama
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendan Gleeson
Director: John Boorman
Rating: **

It is a deadly combination and it delivers—the coming together of John Le Carre, the spy thriller master, and director John Boorman leads to a mixture of genres: the detective story with political farce. Based on Le Carre's famous novel, the movie begins with Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) barging into the prestigious tailoring shop of a half-breed Panamanian, Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), to offer him a deal of a lifetime. Osnard is MI6 and a typical British degenerate—he is capable of sleeping with almost every woman he can lay his hands on and has no qualms in conning his own country. The issue at hand is the controversy surrounding the Panama Canal after its successful hand-over from America to Panama in 1999. The Americans are eager to intervene again and Osnard manipulates the gray areas of British culpability in order to provide them with an excuse, and walk away with a lot of money.

Osnard first tears Pendel's respectability to shreds (the tailor is actually an ex-convict) before forcing him to act his spy. Pendel acquiesces like a victim—he then begins playing his own game. He cons Osnard with stories about the President of Panama, whom he gets to measure with his tailoring tape, trying to bypass the Anglo-Saxon world in matters relating to the canal. He also feeds him with fake notions about a silent opposition attempting to overthrow the regime. Harry's object is to help some ex-radical friends. But his old instincts make him enjoy the sport for its own sake as well. He is actually Osnard's alter ego—both men represent the inverted, screwed up side of male bonding. In a dark, humorous take on that tradition, the two straight guys are compelled, at one point, to dance together in a gay bar. Harry's game goes awry as the Americans actually decide to invade Panama on the basis of his stories.

Osnard walks with the loot, meant to fund the silent opposition, after almost banging Harry's hot shot wife. In the novel, he had actually done it—Harry had also walked alive into a raging fire. Here he gets to live—the basic absurdity of Anglo-American politics, a dimension that had emerged with force in Le Carre's work, gets tamed down in the bargain. But tight, darkly lit, sweaty shots, plus a couple of hard sex-laden, morally ambiguous moments provide the necessary, insidiously funny tone to the movie.

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