Bang! You’re dead. Bang! You’re dead too. Bop! Another one knocked cold. Car chase. Bang! Bang! Bang! Another three dead. Foot chase. Bop! Bop! Bop! Three more fall into a heap along the marbled corridor of a high end hotel. Crash! A sinister Mercedes SUV, black, of course, drives recklessly through a crowded street clearing its way without regard for innocents. Bang! Bang! You get the idea…
That’s what it’s like watching “The November Man,” a film that has very few momentary respites that punctuate the mindless action. And when there is a pause, Pierce Brosnan gets to swill down glass after glass of Scotch whisky. He’s fit enough for a 60-plus-year-old and cool, to be sure, but he’s no Liam Neeson. And “The November Man” is no “Taken.”
An espionage thriller vehicle for once Bond Brosnan, “The November Man” tries hard but never distinguishes itself and worst of all, it gets monotonous and even boring as it repeats its sometimes senseless, violent gun play and grinds to a blood and bullets conclusion. Best line, not from Brosnan, “You know why we call you the November Man?” Well, I won’t spoil it, but the punch line is buried and comes way too late in the whole affair.
Brosnan plays Devereaux, a shadowy CIA operative (sporting his smooth Irish accent), who prides himself on having no personal connections. At one point at the beginning of the film, he’s joined by a U.S. diplomat in a sleek sedan. “I need your clothes,” he tells the diplomat. Naturally, they fit like a glove, because moments later Devereaux emerges from the vehicle suited up nicely. His callous commitment to no family or personal connections allows him to get the job done with little complications. He pulls triggers, and in “The November Man” Devereaux never misses his mark. But after a job gone bad (due his young partner’s failure to follow orders), he retires. But he’s pulled back into the organization, of course, for one last job in Russia. Naturally, that job goes even badder (or worse), and he goes on a rampage to exact some revenge November-style.
“The November Man” is slick enough to keep an audience entertained but really is little more than a cable television action flick. It probably only gets a theatrical release due to Brosnan’s name and the traditionally weak Labor Day box office. Efficiently directed by Roger Donaldson, who had given us much better films like “The Bank Job” and the wonderful “The World’s Fastest Indian,” one wonders who thought “The November Man” script was worthy of the talent involved.
No one embarrasses themselves here, but Donaldson has to be careful, because this is just marginally better than his last flick something called “Seeking Justice.” Money is what makes these projects happen, of course. Some bean counters with computers projected that this kind of thing will make money. And, I’m sure they are right. It’s just a shame, because it will do little for Brosnan’s legacy. The man can, after all, really act. And when he’s on, you get something like “The Matador,” where his charisma pays off oodles and oodles. And he’s funny too, luckily we get a little of that here, especially, when he guzzles Scotch while platonically sharing a hotel room with knockout and former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko.
But what’s really wrong with “The November Man” is that it is such an implausible premise from the get go. The characters race around the Serbian City of Belgrade as though it is an amusement park. They shoot, punch, or run over anyone who gets in their way. And we never see a single police officer that I can think of. It is lawless anarchy that just doesn’t make any logical sense. The idea is to keep the action moving so that we never take a moment to think about it, but in giving us a monotonous cycle of violence the viewer’s mind is bound of wander. Mine did. And that’s when I knew the film wasn’t working.
Finally, the Russians get a bum rap here. Sure, I’m no fan of that guy Vladimir Putin, but in “The November Man” Russians are depicted as sexually perverse monsters. I mean all the Russians in the film are that way. Such a one dimensional depiction is hard to swallow and certainly does bode well for its box office returns in the Motherland.
Pierce Brosnan, 61 and still got it? Well, of course, he’s still got it. But “The November Man” has nothing that makes it worthy of him.
NOTE: This review first appeared in the Times Herald.