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Case Number 15776: Small Claims Court

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The Matador (2008)

City Lights Media // 2008 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 24th, 2009

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All Rise...

You won't catch Appellate Judge Tom Becker waltzing with this toreador anytime soon.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Matador (2005) (published July 17th, 2006) and The Matador (2005) (Blu-ray) (published December 1st, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

A story of passion, tragedy, triumph, and love.

The Case

Fair warning: Asking me to review a DVD about bullfighting is like asking Mother Teresa to be a judge on Project Runway.

How torturing an animal to death is considered "sport" or "entertainment," I do not know. If it's "tradition," then it's a tradition that might be better going the way of public floggings and witch burnings.

I'm aware that there are lots of people who don't agree with this, and for them, there is The Matador, a film about young Spanish bullfighter David Fandila, aka El Fandi. El Fandi is in his early 20s and good looking, and what he lacks in artistry and tradition, he makes up for in skill and style. He's bullfighter as rock star, and he wants to be one of the greats. His goal: A season of 100 fights, something only a dozen other bullfighters have accomplished.

The film documents El Fandi over the course of three seasons. He misses 100 by a few fights in one season, a lot in another (due to a twisted ankle, not, he almost regrets, an all-out goring), and finally hits the magic number at the end.

There is a lot of footage of El Fandi actually fighting the bulls, which is exciting, unless you're secretly rooting for the bulls, in which case it's sad. Going into it, we know that El Fandi doesn't end up in that big corrida in the sky, so a lot of bulls are going to be making the ultimate sacrifice in service of this garish crowd pleaser.

The film offers a quick talking-heads debate on the pros and cons of bullfighting ("It's barbaric!" "It's a grand tradition!"), but El Fandi pretty much lets that roll off him. He doesn't care about the politics. He waxes a tad purple here and there about the admirable bravery of the bulls and the thrill of knowing he's risking his life every time he steps into the ring, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of depth to his reflections.

This is a big problem with The Matador. El Fandi is unquestionably great at what he does, but he's just not that interesting as a person. There's not much to his backstory. He comes from a long line of Matador wannabes, and it looks like he'll be the family's first big success story. He's focused, but he has a limited worldview. His stumbling justifications of killing as spectacle are no more profound than those of the dimwitted fashionistas who slough off animals being skinned alive to make expensive fur coats.

The film looks very good, with the transfer sporting vibrant colors during the bullfighting sequences. The 5.1 surround audio offers a good rendition of John Califra's original music. The majority of the audio is in Spanish, and there are nonremovable English subtitles.

In the extras department, we get 45 minutes of one of El Fandi's fights, all the way to its gruesome conclusion; a short "Bullfighting 101" featurette; a music video, photo galleries, and a trailer.

There's more surface than substance here, and really not much style. The story is told in as straightforward a manner as possible. Despite a number of shots of protestors carrying signs like "Torture is neither art nor culture," the filmmakers pass on the chance to examine the controversial aspects of this sport. What we're left with is a puffy piece about a guy who's more interesting as a set of statistics than as a person.

Guilty. The accused are sentenced to be pelted with red paint while watching an entire season of Wonder Pets! alongside Anna Wintour.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: City Lights Media
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Foreign

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• Gallery
• Trailer


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• Official Site

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