Movie Magazine International

Spy Kids/The Tailor of Panama

USA - 2001

Movie Review By Monica Sullivan

Two films by directors 35 years apart in age, are attracting widespread critical & popular acclaim this spring. Their surprising message is that deception is dangerous & deadly & that keeping a family together is exciting & glamorous. The fact is that Robert Rodriguez, who burst onto the indie film scene at 24 with 1993's "El Mariachi," & John Boorman, who made his debut at 32 with 1965's Dave Clarke Five vehicle "Catch Us If You Can," are both at the top of their game: They know what to say & they know how to say it. Each understands that every character must have a function which advances the plot, rather than drags it down.

The kids are the stars in "Spy Kids." They are 12-year-old Alexa Vega & 8-year-old Daryl Sabara as Carmen & Juni Cortez. Carmen & Juni keep secrets from their parents, Gregorio & Ingrid, played by Antonio Banderas & Carla Gugino. Gregorio & Ingrid, who met as secret agents on opposing assignments, keep secrets from the kids, as well as each other. The secrets, designed to protect everyone from disturbing & disruptive information, are actually driving the Cortez family I apart. And everyone discovers the truth, anyhow, when Mom & Dad are kidnapped & the unprepared kids must save them. The entire rescue operations are like something Out of a Hong Kong action flick, with a nod to the 1953 Cult classic, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T." There are some intriguing vi11ains on hand: Alan Cumming as the misguided Fegan Floop, Tony Shalhoub as Mr. Minion & then there is the shadowy Ms. Gradenko, played by Teri Hatch. Danny Trejo, with a craggy face that is a character actor's dream, is Uncle Machete, Dad's estranged brother, & Cheech Marin has a cameo as Uncle Felix. The action, seen courtesy of a digital projection system, is full speed ahead & somehow Rodriguez makes video look better on a huge screen than anyone ever has before. Spy Kids" is certainly light years ahead of the primitive experiments of the late eighties.

There are no heroes in "The Tailor Of Panama", only , some characters who are not good & others who are not bad. The king mixer is Pierce Brosnan as Andy Osnard from MI6, determined to dig up some dirt in Panama. His informant is ex-convict Harry Pendel, an obsequious member of the Panama scene with delusions of being a born again tailor from posh Savile Row. In fact, Harry is broke: none of his well-connected clients pay their bills & his poorly managed farm is draining the few cash reserves he has. "Give me some dirt, Harry," Andy insists, "And I'II pay you." With no real secrets to divulge, Harry makes up some, involving his secretary Marta & his fat, sweaty buddy Mickie Abraxax, who is never sober.

Marta & Mickie can't afford to take another ride on the espionage merry-go-round, but Harry, madly in love with his wife & kids, is all caught up in the idea of being a spy & the amoral Andy eggs him on every step of the way. Jamie Lee Curtis as Harry's wife Louisa, sees through Andy in a flash & fights like a tiger to save her family & their position in Panama. Boorman collaborated on the excellent script with John Le Carre, adapting his own novel. This satire on appearance & reality is well-played by sterling cast of character actors, all of whom fit their roles so well that the pervasive atmosphere of unease creeps up on you.

© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 4/11/01

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