Title: The Killer (O Matador)
Director(s): Marcelo Galvão
Writer(s): Marcelo Galvão
Release Date: Brazil – April 2017, Netflix – 10 November, 2017
There is an obvious admiration for Westerns. The adequate ones appreciate the need to be patient with a story worth telling. Netflix has taken on a Brazilian Western. The Killer, or O Matador, is a Western that attempts to ease into the story slowly.
What is this Western about?
The story opens up ambiguously. Two children, who appear to be in woodlands, are stopped by two men that suspiciously look like bandits. Their father, who looks shook by the situation, tries to calm the bandits and take his children away from them. The bandits demand that the father makes them coffee. He does, nervously, but insists that he tells them a story.
The Killer from here on is the story told to the two bandits.
Ah okay, so what’s the story about?
The story is the key to this Western. The Killer bases itself on a character called Cabeleira who grew up in a lawless countryside raised by a local bandit named Seven Ears. He actually has a neckless made up of seven ears. In his upbringing, Cabeleira is taught how to hunt, kill and survive. One day Seven Ears disappears and Cabeleira plucks up the courage to finally leave the countryside and make his way to the town to find him. By natural instinct, he becomes the most feared killer in the Pernambuco and works for the “Frenchman” that takes people’s land.
Is The Killer (O Matador) any good?
How the story is told is what makes The Killer worth the watch. Its gritty exterior and an environment where the characters have to demand survival is what draws you into the story. It does not stray away from showing the true horrors of Cabeleira’s life, where he cuts into dead animals and eats the meat straight from underneath the fur, or when he shows zero mercy and shoots an unlucky man in the head. When the story progresses so does Cabeleira. It almost feels like a coming of age Western story of a lawless man getting to grips with the structures of society. The most prominent example is his lack of understanding of money, deeming it pointless. He then completely understands that money is cardinal when he finds out it is the only way he can sleep with prostitutes.
Hold up. Go back a little. What’s the point of the story?
There is a point to all this and it becomes clearer as the man with the two children progresses the story. That’s the beauty of this Western. The curiosity, the mystery, and the impending twist is what makes The Killer rather peculiar. It mixes its classic style with modern attributes with gun-fu moments and gore. And as the lead character develops so does your understanding of where he lives and what the town thrives for.
The performance from Diogo Morgado is especially wonderful to watch. He plays Cabeleira very well. The scenes that are dark and dreadful are the most convincing.
Is this Netflix Original worth watching?
It depends on your tastes in a Western movie. The genre’s style at times is intentionally made to be subjective and The Killer, despite its running time of only one hour and thirty-nine minutes, is one of those movies. The film spends much of its time slowly raising the character, the environment and the point of the story. It suffers from stagnation slightly, especially approaching the third act, but the ending is worth the wait.
Despite the time we live in, The Killer pretends that we do not reside in the modern era of Westerns and chooses a more patient, classic approach with some essence of modernness. It’s definitely worth the watch.
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