Take a Drink: every time you see a flip phone.
Take a Drink: whenever someone hides behind a corner and sneak attacks a person.
Take a Drink: every time a woman is treated like shit.
Take a Drink: when something happens that reminds you of another movie.
Take a Drink: every time Alexa, supposedly one of the best deadly Russian assassins, fails to take somebody out.
Take a Drink: whenever Devereaux drinks (at the worst possible times!)
Do a Shot: after that scene when you’re like “what the hell?” (You’ll know when)
Do Another shot: when it’s finally revealed why he is called the November Man.
By BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
Well it’s the end of the summer movie season and you know what that means. Yes, this is when all the studios dump the films they didn’t feel confident enough in to give a better release date. There was a time when a spy-thriller starring Pierce Brosnan would have been a major summer movie event, but in 2014 it’s more of a hoping it’s a fun sleeper kind of experience. So, is it a pleasant surprise or a total dud?
The November Man, based on a novel in Bill Granger’s popular series of the same name, introduces us to Brosnan as CIA agent Peter Devereaux. The film opens with a flashback sequence to five years prior when a job Devereaux is on with protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey) goes terribly wrong.
“Goddamn kids these days.”
Soon after, Devereux retires to Switzerland where he leads a quiet life as a café owner. That is until one day when his former boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) pulls him back in for-say it with me– ONE LAST MISSION. He is needed to extract another agent who is working undercover in Moscow and has some pretty damning evidence against the corrupt future Russian president Federov (Lazar Ristovski). Once again, things go terribly wrong (how good of an agent is he?) right off the bat and Devereaux soon finds himself on the run from both the Russians as well as the CIA. And who do you think is the agent assigned to take him out? I’ll give you one guess.
It’s Mason, come on people, this isn’t that hard.
Along the way Devereaux teams up with a social worker named Alice Fournier (former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) who may have information on the whereabouts of a key witness against Federov who everyone seems to be looking for, including a vicious assassin named Alexa (Amila Terzimehic) who’s so badass she practices her splits in jeans.
Also the executive producer, Brosnan purchased the rights to The November Man novel series back in 2006. The film was put on hold for six years until he resurrected it and secured Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Species, The Bank Job) as director. So it’s clear this was a passion project that Brosnan really wanted to see the light of day. Perhaps it’s to prove to fickle audiences that at 61 years-old he still has some action hero game left in him.
Daniel Craig who?
Was there ever any doubt? Brosnan hasn’t lost a step and his charming bravado is just as evident here as in his Bond days.
The film feels very nostalgic (it is, after all, based on a book series from the 1980s during the Cold War) and for the most part, that is a good thing (like similar films of decades past, it’s also annoyingly heavy on the misogyny). It recalls the 80s/90s action popcorn movies and is thankfully devoid of shaky-cam and jump-cuts so you can actually follow what is going on during the car chases and well-choreographed fight scenes. There are several legitimate edge-of-your-seat moments. All in all, it’s a lot more fun than it seems to be getting credit for.
Not being familiar with Granger’s novels, I was confused as to what to make of the character of Devereaux. One moment he’s a dashing hero, protecting innocent lives and fighting corrupt injustices, the next, he’s an unhinged “shoot first, ask questions never” sociopath.
There is one scene in particular that grinds the film to a screeching halt. It bothered me enough to no longer care what happened to Devereaux after that point and is still bothering me three days later. I suppose this scene exists to keep viewers on their toes (“He wouldn’t do that, he’s just trying to prove a point… oh shit, he did that!”) and to add complexity to the character, but the movie never fully commits to this side of him so it just feels like a terrible misjudgment.
I honestly would have been more comfortable if he had broken into song instead.
Still, because he’s Pierce Brosnan, he mostly gets away with it. Mostly.
While the first half of the film carefully builds the story and establishes the players, it goes completely bonkers in the second. Subplots within subplots, double-crosses, secret identities, every spy-thriller trope you can think of- it’s all in there. It gets very convoluted, yet predictable at the same time, while leaving crater-sized plot holes along the way.
The gore factor is also increasingly amped up with blood, explosions, and more blood! It’s as if Donaldson suddenly realized he had an R rating. (This would explain a gratuitous sex scene that goes on forever and serves absolutely no purpose.)
It’s also frustrating that all of the characters make stupid, stupid decisions. I don’t understand how everyone in this movie wasn’t dead by the half hour mark. I’m no highly-trained CIA agent, but I think I’d probably leave the scene of an attempted assassination instead of camping out there for the night. Or, if I were on the run from bad guys, I’d probably wait to take a soul-cleansing shower. If I were a hotel owner expecting a high-ranking foreign official, I’d maybe make sure there was extra security on hand that day. Or, as much as I like a couple giant glasses of Scotch, maybe a stakeout in a broken-into apartment isn’t the best time to indulge. But that’s just me.
I can’t help but wonder how many actors turned down the role of David Mason before Luke Bracey was cast. I would guess he was next in line after the late Paul Walker, Jai Courtney, and probably every other young generically good-looking Australian up-and-comer. Until now, Bracey was best known for the teen comedy Monte Carlo (which I admit, I totally didn’t hate) and he’ll be taking on the role of Johnny Utah in the Point Break reboot nobody asked for. He’s passable in The November Man, but it’s no star-making performance. He never seems like a worthy rival for the charismatic Brosnan.
Just gonna leave this here.
Olga Kurylenko is a very talented actress and has been building an impressive resume of her own, but I couldn’t not see Catherine Zeta-Jones throughout this entire movie.
“Olga Kurylenko IS Catherine Zeta-Zones AS Velma Kelly!”
Okay, okay, this isn’t her fault, nor the movie’s, so I’ll retract this beer. It was just more of an observation.
Definitely not shaken.
For a lazy holiday weekend matinee, you could do worse. You could do better, but the throwback old-school style is refreshing and it’s fun to see Brosnan back in action dapperly fighting bad guys. And he’ll be doing it at least once more as Devereaux- a sequel is already in the works.