In terms of James Bond actors I feel that Pierce Brosnan has had the most eclectic career outside of the 007 franchise. From sci-fi horror to family comedies, sombre Westerns to camp musicals and from romantic leads to villainous assassins, Brosnan’s cinematic output has been incredibly varied.
Since retiring from the role of James Bond after 2002’s Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan has appeared in a staggering 25 feature films. Quite a few have been “straight-to-DVD-esque” B-Movie thrillers which don’t really require Brosnan to do much more than turn up and collect the cheque. However, alongside these “nuts and bolts” action flicks he’s taken on some really interesting roles.
I was never blown away with his performance as James Bond. I do have a certain fondness for all of his 007 films, but the films themselves didn’t really require him to overexert his thespian prowess. He basically just looked really good in a tuxedo for 4 films. Not necessarily a bad thing and not something that was specifically Brosnan’s fault. It was clear to see that after the producers had tried something slightly different with Timothy Dalton in the role they were keen to return to a more debonair portrayal of Bond, with the darkness and emotional baggage completely toned down.
Since 2002, Brosnan (in my opinion) has produced some of his finest work and I’ve become something of a Pierce Brosnan fanboy and will actively seek out films just because he features in them. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 Post-Bond Pierce Brosnan films:
Honorable Mention – The World’s End (2013)
Another ex-Bond stepping into the Pegg / Wright / Frost Universe after Timothy Dalton’s fantastic turn in Hot Fuzz. As enjoyable as the film is, I couldn’t really include it in the run down as Brosnan’s role is purely a cameo. I don’t feel you could ever describe The World’s End as a “Pierce Brosnan Movie”.
10. A Long Way Down (2014)
Based on the Nick Hornby novel, A Long Way Down is a quirky comedy drama that is as uneven as it’s ensemble cast. On paper, Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, and Imogen Poots shouldn’t really gel together organically as a surrogate family unit, but the film has enough charming moments in it to smooth over its rough edges. It doesn’t translate to the screen as successfully as other Nick Hornby adaptions such as High Fidelity, About a Boy or even Fever Pitch but there is enough to amuse in A Long Way Down for it to be an enjoyable 90 minutes. Also, in terms of Pierce Brosnan movies, it’s definitely worth a watch as it’s an example of one of this more off-kilter roles.
9. No Escape (2015)
Rather similar, tonally and thematically to 2008’s Rambo (with Brosnan adopting the Rambo-esque role). There’s a lot of shaky camera work and execution style killings as Owen Wilson and fam attempt to escape a non-specific Southeast Asian city. Local rebel mercenaries go on a “foreigner” killing spree and the Americans are forced to duck and dodge bullets en route to seeking asylum . After a chance meeting at the start of the film Brosnan is noticeably absent for most of the first hour and then returns in an explosive kind of manner to rescue “the Wilson’s” from their certain death. It’s a perfectly well put together thriller with plenty of excess violence for the more hardened action fans.
8. Mamma Mia! (2008)
A movie adaption of the Broadway musical which see’s a narrative constructed around some of ABBA’s greatest hits. Mamma Mia! is quite a remarkable piece of work. It’s a very shoddily made film in terms of production quality. None of the 3 leading men can really sing or dance. The “comedy” is horrible. The performances are ludicrous. The story is nonsense…. and yet…. it accomplishes something rare that most terrible films fail to accomplish. It delves so deep into a pool of terribleness that it actually resurfaces on the other side and becomes something quite tremendous. If you acknowledge all of the films flaws and just put them to one side, you’re left with a great cast performing some indestructible pop songs and having a laugh at themselves. If you latch on to those aspects of the film you can’t help but watch it with a smile on your face.
7. The Foreigner (2017)
On paper, Pierce Brosnan playing an Irishman and Jackie Chan playing a Chinese man who indulges in martial arts based stunt work doesn’t sound like either performer is straying too far from their comfort zones. However, both of the lead actors do their signature turns really well in Martin Campbell’s latest thriller. Brosnan essentially plays a Gerry Adams-esque politician that may (or may not) be involved in a number of terrorist bombings initiated by an IRA splinter group. Seeking vengeance for his daughter’s murder, Chan peruses Brosnan assuming him to be linked to the attacks and the film descends into full blown action. Both actors turn in a brilliant performance and, as Bond fans will already know, Martin Campbell really knows his way around these kind of genre pieces.
6. The November Man (2014)
A pretty cliched action spy thriller with Brosnan starring in his most Bond-esque film since Bond. Even recruiting 2008’s Bond-girl Olga Kuylenko, the film is a series of set pieces that we’ve all seen before. But all the set pieces are done rather well and there’s an exploitation sensibility to the film that takes it up a notch. It’s a bit bloodier, gorier, more sweary and with more nudity on offer than your general spy thriller. That’s one of the reasons I think it really works well. We’ve all seen Brosnan do the spy shtick in a 12 rated kind of fashion. This is Brosnan doing the spy shtick in a 15 rated kind of fashion.
5. The Matador (2005)
The start of the Pierce Brosnan renaissance I’d say. This was the film in which Pierce Brosnan wandered out into acting territory that was against type in a way that audiences had never really experienced. He is genuinely brilliant in the movie and the whole film is quirky and unique in a way that makes it stand out from his entire body of work. The film isn’t particularly heavy on plot. It’s more a character piece that follows Brosnan’s chance meeting with Greg Kinnear in a Mexican bar. Had Pierce Brosnan not been up against Walk the Line‘s Joaquin Phoenix for best actor at the Golden Globes, I feel he definitely would have had a shot at winning.
4. The Ghost Writer (2010)
The Ghost Writer or known simply as The Ghost in some territories is Roman Polanski’s film adaption of the Robert Harris novel. The political-thriller is loosely based on the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq invasion with Brosnan playing former Prime Minister Adam Lang, loosely based on former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Brosnan is terrific in the film and (for my money) manages to steal the show every time he’s on screen. Which, when you look at the caliber of the supporting cast, is a pretty impressive feat.
3. Seraphim Falls (2006)
Pierce Brosnan probably isn’t the first name you’d think of to associate with the Western genre, however Seraphim Falls is a gripping and visually arresting modern Western that follows Liam Neeson as he tracks Brosnan across the Ruby Mountains of Nevada. It’s a slow burner of a movie that’s not particularly heavy on dialogue but the visuals and performances are just wonderful. Brosnan plays “down and out” in a way that’s completely sincere and similarly to The Matador, Seraphim Falls stands out from his back catalogue as one of the more unique entries.
2. Butterfly on a Wheel (2007)
As I stated earlier, many of Pierce Brosnan’s more recent films have been “straight-to-DVD-esque” B-Movie thrillers. Generally they’re quite unmemorable and generic and Brosnan simply phones in a performance and then moves on to something else. It’s because of this I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Butterfly on a Wheel AKA Shattered AKA Desperate Hours. The alarm bells were ringing immediately when I discovered the film had been released with 3 different titles in different territories. This is a classic B-Movie trademark. And with the addition of Gerard Butler in the cast, a 90 minute run time, and no budget. I assumed Butterfly on a Wheel would be a straight forward romp with a few action set pieces and a bunch of actors doing what they do. However, I found the film to be genuinely intriguing, with great performances across the board and one of the best twist endings I’d seen for a while in these kinds of films.
1. Love Is All You Need (2012)
Based on the bland advertising posters, the poor box office return and the setup in general i.e. a low budget, Danish romantic comedy set in Italy starring Pierce Brosnan, I don’t think anyone really had any expectations for this production. Directed by Susanne Bier, an experimental filmmaker involved in the new wave Dogme 95 film movement in the 1990s and with no (other than Brosnan) bankable stars, I first saw Love Is All You Need on a plane to New York having no prior knowledge of the film. It is an absolute joy from start to finish. Genuinely funny and moving, Brosnan gives a fantastic central performance as a widowed American businessman.