The Tailor of Panama

Originally reviewed April, 2001

This seemed to have been the week for actors to fulfill their greatest fantasy by playing characters so unlike what audiences are expecting. The Tailor of Panama was my second movie outing of the weekend and it was a bigger surprise than the first. If you think Hugh Grant playing a jerk seems strange, seeing James Bond play a conniving, corrupt and heartless ass is even stranger. But that is not even close to being the strangest part of this movie. Or the biggest surprise.

The Tailor of Panama stars Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis, is directed by John Boorman, and is based on the novel of the same name by John Le Carre. The novel was adapted into a screenplay by Andrew Davies, who, with Richard Curtis, co-wrote Bridget Jones’s Diary. With all that talent and all that pedigree, you’d think it’d be a winner, wouldn’t you?


The Tailor of Panama is the single-biggest waste of talent I’ve seen since Toys back in 1992. This film is an embarrassment to all involved. Not only is the screenplay so convoluted and meandering, it doesn’t even make sense. There are story points that are downright laughable, and characters who are so one-dimensional, you wouldn’t even see stuff this bad in Screenwriting 101. I was so mystified as to how this film could be so bad that I actually believed at one point that it couldn’t possibly be serious. I really believed that the film was, indeed, a spoof, because, truly, no film this bad could ever take itself THIS seriously. Alas, I was wrong. This film does take itself that seriously and it STINKS. Geoffrey Rush is flat-out wasted and looks so uncomfortable, you just feel sorry for him. Jamie Lee Curtis doesn’t even have a real character, it seems like she’s just there to have convenient sexual tension with Brosnan’s character. And while I applaud Pierce Brosnan making the attempt to distance himself from his James Bond image, playing a corrupt MI-6 agent is NOT the way to go about it. Brosnan’s last film, The Thomas Crown Affair, was slick, sexy and seductive. The Tailor of Panama is so bad that I found myself just grateful that these three talented actors already have established careers so I can at least be sure this film won’t ruin any of them. Lesser actors, had they appeared in this clunker, would never have been heard from again.

I can’t even begin to actually review this film, because I stopped trying to follow the story about halfway through. I found myself just agog at the horror I was witnessing. I usually pride myself on my ability to avoid really bad films, but I’m afraid I totally misjudged this one. And the fact that The Tailor of Panama was written by the same bloke who co-wrote Bridget Jones’s Diary just goes to show you, folks….even writers sometimes just have to make a living. You win some, you lose some. Let me help you save some hard-earned money and some precious time. The Tailor of Panama is a loser. You can’t possibly be more surprised at that than I was.

My rating: O = not even worth renting