Tailor of Panama, The

2 bone dogRated: R
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush

An odd mix of clever espionage drama bound with great wit, The Tailor of Panama sports a terrific cast with Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush as spy and stooge, respectively. Panama’s exotic locale, post-Noriega, is the backdrop amid the controversial return of the Panama Canal to that country’s control.

Rush plays Harry Pendel, a hard working ‘Saville Row’ tailor with the whole upper class of Panama City as his clientele. He has a competent, well off wife in Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) who works for the agency overseeing the operation of the canal, and he has a beloved young daughter and son. Harry also has a tainted past that Louisa knows nothing about. Enter Andy Osnard (Brosnan), a particularly crass, duplicitous, low class James Bond who’s been exiled to Panama by the British secret service for a number of failures and misdeeds, including taking up with the wrong women, many wrong women, in fact. His arrival in Panama doesn’t change him one bit. His motto seems to be ‘any woman will do.’

Osnard’s job is to ferret out someone who can help expose the country’s secrets and the men behind them. That would be the well-connected Harry, or so he thinks. So, Osnard dangles money in front of the debt-ridden Harry to get him on the hook and the two begin a rather strange entanglement of lies and elaborations that keeps Osnard in good grace with his employers and Harry in a very precarious situation with his wife and friends. And the great humor in it all is that Osnard knows Harry ‘s a fabricator. They dance a very twisted tango until Harry gets in too deep and his conscience gets the better of him.

Lotta says: Look carefully for Brendan Gleeson doing an impressive job playing the boozy former rebel Mickie Abraxas. Otherwise, Brosnan and Rush are particularly effective. This is an adaptation of a John le Carre novel and the excellent screenplay was co-written by le Carre with Andrew Davies. It’s crisply directed by John Boorman. Also features playwright Harold Pinter as Harry’s Uncle Benny and Catherine McCormack as Francesca, a British Embassy employee. I’m giving it 2-bones only because I don’t have a rating of 2-and-a-half, that’s what it should really get because it’s definitely a step above 2.

Reviewed 3/30/01