Thanks to Liam Neeson and the ever-dwindling male population of the Baltic region, the “old man kicking ass in Europe” genre is still in full swing. And like any popular and booming business, there will always be cheap knockoffs. Enter The November Man, veteran director Roger Donaldson’s stab at the not-quite-as-over-the-hill-as-people-thought spy thriller gig, which banks on audiences’ nostalgia for some Pierce Brosnan Bond-age, but offers little else in terms of entertaining diversion.
To be fair, as retired CIA operative Peter Devereaux drawn back for one last mission involving an old Russian flame, the 61-year old Brosnan shows that he still has the combination of charm and intensity that made him such a popular James Bond. But this is R-rated territory here, folks, so the cheesy quips are replaced by dirty words, as Brosnan turns up the mean-mugging and just all around meanness. And it really works, with Brosnan even acquitting himself admirably in the action beats, as Devereaux has to face off against his former colleagues after some telegraphed double-crossing.
Leading the charge against Devereaux is Luke Bracey’s David Mason, Devereaux’s former protege who botched a mission the two were on years ago resulting in Devereaux getting out of the spy game to lead a quiet life in Switzerland where he can raise his daughter who you won’t have to care one iota about as she barely gets the most threadbare of character beats. So too you probably won’t care about Bracey, an actor whose most high profile role thus far was as the guy under the Cobra Commander mask in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The young actor flexes his muscles well enough but shows off the on-screen charisma of a malnourished house plant as he straight-faces his way through a dud of a screenplay that relies on every genre cliche in the book.
Not even the eye candy appeal of Olga Kurylenko can help to spice up proceedings, although she does a relatively decent enough job with the uninspired material she’s given. She plays Alice Fournier, a refugee case worker who may have info surrounding war atrocities and sex crimes committed by the soon to be Russian President back when he was still a general in the army during the 2nd Chechen War. There’s some meaty stuff to be mined there, but Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek’s script tends to go for generic blockbuster beats instead of actually delving deeper, leaving Kurylenko mostly resigned to the role of Devereaux’s terrified arm accessory.
Donaldson – who has made some solid thrillers in his time like Thirteen Days, The Bank Job and The Recruit (and even the entertainingly schlocky Dante’s Peak which also starred Brosnan) – doesn’t help matters along either, switching between being either a bargain basement Doug Liman or a Fong Kong John Woo. When he isn’t framing and cutting his espionage cat-and-mouse games all Bourne-esque, right down to some similar music beats, he’s turning every single explosion, gunshot, punch, kick, slap, mildly incontinent stare, etc into a listless slow-mo ballet. While the former approach, as derivative as it is, will certainly help to keep some audience members mildly entertained, the latter style does nothing except evaporate what little bit of action tension there may have been.
Despite the vitriolic slant of most of my comments, The November Man is not the worst movie you’ll see this year (Don’t worry, Sex Tape, your position is still safe). But despite Brosnan’s efforts it commits that even more heinous crime of just being bland and forgettable. It’s the type of movie you expect to accidentally channel surf to on M-Net Movies Action+ in the middle of the night and then end up falling asleep to because it isn’t worth the physical effort of changing the channel again. Which is obviously why Hollywood has already greenlit a sequel.
Last Updated: September 30, 2014