Code named "The November Man," Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is an extremely dangerous and highly trained ex-CIA agent who is lured out of quiet retirement on a very personal mission. He must protect valuable witness, Alice Fournier, (Olga Kurylenko) who could expose the truth behind a decades-old conspiracy. He soon discovers this assignment makes him a target of his former friend and CIA protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey). With growing suspicions of a mole in the agency, there is no one Devereaux can trust, no rules and no holds barred. With a screenplay by Michael Finch & Karl Gajdusek based on Bill Granger's novel "There are No Spies" from the bestselling November Man book series, THE NOVEMBER MAN is the ultimate cat-and-mouse game set in the world of international espionage.
There’s something strangely routine and uneven about a spy picture like The November Man. It’s a sloppy dance between the intricacies of the Bourne movies and the fancy tech of James Bond. Cars intensely dash around the street and explode, only to be followed with a bloody shootout that bites hard with its R-rating. It wants to be both hard-nosed espionage drama and a savage action bonanza. It’s cockily playful and brutally violent. This is a film that never finds its true tone and footing, merely skating around the expected cliches of most spy/revenge films and wedging them in when needed.
The aged government assassin Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) finds himself drawn back into the world of secret plots and vicious takedowns after years of retirement. Letting his emotions get the better of him, despite his creed for maintaining a stone-cold composure, he attempts to save the life of Russian double-agent Natalia who becomes a target of the CIA. But when she is sniped by Peter’s former trainee David Mason (Luke Bracey), a rivalry of teacher and student is born. They meet amid a brutal shootout and part ways with an exploding car behind them as they walk away. I didn’t think that cliche was still viable as I’m pretty sure Muppets Most Wanted killed it in parody. Director Roger Donaldson is either old fashioned or still living in the 1980’s.
The seemingly layered plot involves Russian president candidate Arkady Federov taking office to give America better control over the country. But it all just boils down to Peter finding a female target (Olga Kurylenko) and running around Russia trying to protect her the CIA and Russian assassins. When Peter is not trading fatherly banter with his ex-pupil David, he’s trying to evade the mute Russian hitwoman who has better legs than personality. They run through alleys, drive fast through the streets and shoot up all the bad guys when necessary.
There’s even a moment where Natalia attempts to seduce and kill the man responsible for the death of her family, dressed as prostitute in the goofy violet bob wig. Having seen far too many films with this same scenario and hair, I can’t help but wonder what allure there is to that wig style and color. It seems as though it has the power to make men quickly drop their guard and just let her get on with her murder. I can’t wait for the film when a mobster finally sees through this costume that screams bloody vengeance.
No stranger to this genre, Pierce Brosnan is the highlight of the picture as an old and grizzled hitman. He’s been in the game long enough to know all the rules and which ones disgust him the most. Pierce can be both the cold-blooded killer and the quick-witted hero when called upon by the script. The problem is that the script seems to call up these situations at random. There’s no proper flow or build up for these characters who are bent to the will of the plot. One moment Peter is trying to sway David over the phone while they play cat and mouse, the next Peter is threatening David’s female friend at knife-point with some rather gruesome results.
While the violence may be sporadic for such a story that fluctuates between mindless action and serious drama, there’s something admirable about a film that wants to go the extra mile to make itself shocking and bloody. When a character is sniped in the chest, it’s incredibly painful and messy. When a character is stabbed in the chest, it’s done multiple times until there is a pool of red on the floor. There’s a brutal honesty to its follow through on violent scenes which really do pack a punch. So powerful are these moments it makes me wish they were better assembled for other movies.
Throw every action movie scene into a player, set it to randomize and you’ll have the messy compilation that is The November Man. There’s nothing to be invested in with these characters that adhere to the stock action tropes so closely it becomes tiresome. There are a few surprises here and there, but it’s mostly due to a fusion of different tones that do not mesh as well as they should. At least Liam Neeson didn’t snatch up this role and finally gave someone else the chance to fire some guns and make threats on some phones.
You rated this film: 2
Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
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