The Tailor of Panama

Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
The Tailor of Panama Movie Poster Image
Not a great movie -- for adults only.
  • R
  • 2001
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Hispanic characters are secondary in this story, but come off as a complex and diverse population; Osnard is a sexual predator and stalks women constantly--his appraisal of their body parts is (intentionally) offensive. Some crude humor.

Violence

All violence is shown in flashback -- some war crimes. Brief gore. A washed-up revolutionary drunkenly accosts drug-dealers and money-launderers at a club. He later commits suicide and we see his corpse; in flashback Panamanian citizens are attacked by

Sex

A scene takes place in a bordello with pornography showing in the background; tawdry sex scenes take place between Osnard and a diplomat; the Tailor's wife is shown topless several times and is groped by Osnard.

Language

Liberal use of extreme obscenities.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug trafficking and drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a sexually frank, profane, and unglamorously corrupt movie that's not particularly appropriate for teens; parental supervision is a must if you watch with your older teen.

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What's the story?

Based on John Le Carre's espionage thriller novel, THE TAILOR OF PANAMA follows the story of British spy Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), who's sent to Panama in 1999 during the transition of the canal from American to Panamanian control. Osnard decides to blackmail tailor Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), who knows a lot of secrets and eventually folds and give Osnard the information he wants about government corruption. Pendel finds himself in hot water and in a less-than-desirable "partnership" with Osnard.

Is it any good?

It is perhaps a relief to encounter an espionage thriller that doesn't involve simple and reductive notions of good guys and bad guys. There are no Matrix-like kung fu action sequences, and the only gadget on display is a ludicrously low-tech lighter that doubles as a camera. MI-6 is just a posh office building in which employees struggle to get the biggest cut of the company profits. And despite the fact that arms-dealing and drug-trafficking are everywhere around the Panama canal, no one, from the CIA to the diplomatic corps to the Panamanian government, really cares.

In this moral vacuum, it's also hard to find a reason to care about the lead players. Osnard is so despicable that it's impossible to enjoy his conquests. And while the movie claims that Harry is pathologically dishonest out of a loyalty to his old crook of an uncle and his love for his family, he carries on an affair with his receptionist and tries to ruin his wife's career. In this world without heroes, it's the savvy but secondary women who wind up cleaning up the messes left by their men. One only wishes they were the ones who walked off into the sunset with the suitcase full of CIA cash.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a good spy thriller, and look into author John le Carre's fascinating background.

Movie details

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