Two years ago, when Daniel Craig assumed the 007 mantle (and in the process made the weather-beaten face a sex symbol again) his fired predecessor, Pierce Brosnan, was at last liberated from a role that never suited him. No one was crazy about Brosnan’s tenure as Bond, least of all Brosnan’s fans, who knew that his talent for irony and self-effacement were being wasted on a humorless spook. (Nevermind that a proud Irishman has no place in His Majesty’s Secret Service).
To his credit, Brosnan pointedly used his first role after the pink slip to deconstruct the Bond persona. Playing a boozy/slutty assassin in Richard Shepard’s The Matador (2005), he sauntered through the picture soused, abandoning all effort at suavity. With the exception of his turn as a malfeasant spy in John Boorman’s The Tailor of Panama (2001), The Matador was Brosnan’s first opportunity since his days as Remington Steele to play it not so straight, and the actor more than acquitted himself.
These days, Brosnan is still getting cast in roles he has no business playing (a singing part in Mamma Mia?) but his performance as the guy who wants to steal his buddy’s girl is the best thing about Ira Sachs’ Married Life, just out on DVD. The film stars Chris Cooper as a man so afraid of hurting his wife’s feelings he would rather kill her than tell her about his mistress. As Cooper’s conniving confidant, Brosnan injects his villain with ease, charm, and elegance—qualities the actor has always possessed in spades but which, ironically, he could never show while wearing that damn tuxedo. —Benjamin Strong