Viewers and readers who can’t remember the Cold War will find it difficult to identify with that troubled yet exciting time. Without getting all misty-eyed with nostalgia, it must be admitted that the lingering USA-UK-USSR contretemps was the cauldron that produced some exceptionally exciting books and fantastically entertaining movies. Alas, by the time of glasnost and perestroika, the espionage novels and movies based upon them were deemed to be as stale as month-old piroshki. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed of its own weight, the international espionage writers had moved on, leaving those damn commies behind and focusing on new villains who speak Arabic or Farsi . . .
In The November Man, a former Cold War CIA operative named Peter Devereaux is reactivated for a mission that is more personal than it seems. Playing Devereaux, Pierce Brosnan is forced into a deadly chess game — with gunfire! — against the next President of Russia, a nasty CIA official and Devereaux’s former student Mason, played by Luke Bracey. See, even though the Cold War is a done deal, Russians with their Boris and Natasha accents still make the best villains, with CIA spooks running a close second and snotty former trainees a very proximate third.
The plot is as thin as any that Hollywood screenwriters could possibly imagine, but the same can be said of almost every movie this year. The director does the story no favors by incorporating editing that jumps confusingly from cut to cut without adequate transitions. On top of which, the only time that the dialog isn’t completely forgettable is when it’s idiotic.
My favorite piece of parlez was when Devereaux advises the utterly delectable Olga Kurylenko — who is worth the price of admission all on her own — that a bullet travels at “4000 feet per second, four times the speed of sound.” Considering that the most powerful rifle depicted in this movie was Bracey’s Blaser R93 in .338 Lapua, I have to applaud the screenwriters’ ability to be wrong twice in the same sentence.
As far as the acting is concerned, Brosnan is unexpectedly outstanding in a gritty role. This is not the pretty-boy Brosnan of “Remington Steele” or “Mrs. Doubtfire,” nor the tongue in cheek action hero of “Tomorrow Never Dies.” This Brosnan is a tough guy. Best of all, I am forever grateful that he didn’t try to sing “SOS” as he did in “Mama Mia.” If there were any dogs near the theater, I’m sure they would concur.
Brosnan’s now-craggy visage is perfect for playing the dissolute Devereaux, and Brosnan proves in this movie that he can chew up the scenery with the best of them. Unfortunately, he still handles guns, such as his SIG-Sauer P226, Ruger GP100 and CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow, like they were spitting cobras with full venom sacks. And – there’s no elegant way to say this – when he drops into his shooting stance it looks like he’s delivering a pantload.
Bracey is okay as Mason, the young gun, and for an Aussie he displays remarkable trigger discipline when he wields his Beretta 92FS Inox Compact. Mason is also a sharpshooter who uses his Heckler & Koch SR9-TC as well as the aforementioned Blaser to bang out a couple of wicked head shots. Unfortunately, Mason has no qualms against violating Rule Four, which gets him into hot water with Devereaux and is the precursor to their falling out. While Devereaux had the highest body count in this movie, Mason ran a close second. And speaking of body count, The November Man lags slightly behind a mid-80s Schwarzenegger movie, but only by a little.
Kurylenko, the well-remembered hottie from “Quantum of Solice,” is a beguiling and steamy actress. It would have been great to see more of her, and you can take that any way you want. She has zero chemistry with Brosnan, but that wasn’t the point. She has a lot of chemistry with the audience.
Amila Terzimehic plays a cold-blooded, steely-eyed, hawk-billed, knife-wielding, gun-toting Russian assassin and, as a former gymnastic champion, she proves to be quite limber too. Anyone who was impressed with Emily Blunt’s yoga scene in “Edge of Tomorrow” (I was) will be even more impressed with Ms. Terzimehic’s ability to attain positions that seem both anatomically impossible and excessively painful. Why she would perform such positions when they have nothing to do with the plot is a question best left to the screenwriters.
I was disappointed that top character actor Will Patton wasn’t given more to do. Patton is such a good actor that he can breathe life into a laundry list: “You want staaaarch? I’ll give you staaaaarch!” (Extra credit if you get the reference). In this film, however, Patton was definitely hampered by meaningless lines and a ridiculous Walmart toupee that looked like it was fashioned from a road-kill beaver.
The November Man has been in theaters for about a week now. If you haven’t seen it, you are a member of an exclusive club consisting of almost everybody else on the planet. The word of mouth hasn’t been very good because the movie incorporates all the usual, tired tropes: evil, conniving CIA men, ruthless Russians, old master versus young gunslinger, farfetched international conspiracies and so on. That’s unfortunate, since this has been a dismal summer for fans of movies that don’t include teenage mutants on the half shell, talking house plants or time-shifting aliens. But gauged against its human competition, The November Man is only half bad.
Model: The November Man
Length: 108 minutes
Action: Lots of gunfights, car crashes, punch-ups, snipings, head shots and a couple of knifings that will make you squirm.
Finish: There’s a sequel in the works – what does that tell you?
Price: Cheap enough on Half Price Wednesday
RATINGS (out of five bullets):
Style * * *
The script is dull and the dialog is unmemorable. The shooting scenes were graphic. The chase scenes will only have you on the edge of your seat if you really, really need to use the toilet. Some of the edits had me shaking my head, wondering what the hell was going on. Brosnan was a better Devereaux than he was at playing James Bond, especially considering that in this movie he didn’t get to apply his special and effective take on witty James Bond repartee — because this movie takes itself very, very seriously.
Reliability * *
The plot was clichéd and the characters mostly unappealing. If there’s anything that you didn’t see coming, you probably were outside getting popcorn. Or a refund.
Overall * * *
Compared to the great spy movies of the golden age, this movie was a pale imitation. With a decent script and a believable plot, this could have been something. As is, it was better than nothing.