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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Tailor of Panama (2001)



Reviews and Comments

The Tailor of Panama should work. All the elements are in place: bizarre, merrily unscrupulous but believable characters, a satirical look at world affairs, and edgy understated humor. Why, then, is the film so stiff and unlikeable? I had the same problem with Barry Levinson's Bandits, an entirely different kind of film that had one stand-out performance, solid supporting performances, a plot with potential, and yet, as a whole, is just plain unlikeable. Here, the stand-out performance is by Geoffrey Rush, playing the title character, intriguing for the reasons he lies to a spy. Lies abound in The Tailor of Panama, and another intriguing element of the movie is how all the characters know they're all lies but need them and figure that if nobody acknowledges their falsehood, it's ok.

But the film lacks energy. It lacks urgency, the sense that anybody has anything to lose. Do we really care if the system of relaying untruths continues or not? Do we really care if the characters can maintain their lifestyle or have to bail? I don't.