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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The November Man 2014 * * * Stars

The November ManDirector: Roger Donaldson
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko

Would you like a sterilized, stylistic R rated version of a Bourne movie? Or a condensed, exceedingly more violent version of a Bond flick? Or Taken? Or better yet, do you prefer your action sequences as the movie equivalency of red meat, right off the bone? Well, you'll surely dig 2014's The November Man. Truth be told, I had moderately low expectations going in to see it. After all, this rogue thriller hit theaters in late August where most films are part of your everyday, end-of-the-season scrap heap. Dare I say though that it ranks as the most profoundly surprising release of the summer.

Shot by the guy who brought you 2003's The Recruit, showcasing an almost unrecognizable Will Patton (taking on a more serious role here as opposed to stuff like Armageddon and Gone in 60 Seconds), and featuring enough cell phone interplay to boost sales for Verizon Wireless, The November Man is based on a novel entitled There Are No Spies by Bill Granger. The proceedings begin with retired ex-CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan). He lives a quiet, stress free life until he is immediately brought out of retirement. His mission: to watch over a witness (Mila Filapova played by the stunning Olga Kurylenko) who was sexually assaulted and who's family was murdered during the Chechen War. Along with this current plight, Brosnan's Devereaux must also dodge his ex-CIA protege (David Mason played by Luke Bracey) sent to hunt him down and prevent a despicable foreign president (Lazar Ristovski playing President Arkady Fedorov) from being elected again.

Things to watch for if you decide to take in a viewing of "November": a scene where Pierce Brosnan's character knocks out two suspicious dudes and wraps them in cellophane with little straws to breathe through, a scene in which a fancy car is intentionally crashed (going 80+ miles an hour) giving new meaning to the term, "don't forget to buckle up", and a solid use of lush locales via the countries of Montenegro and Serbia

Now The November Man with its obvious intentions to avoid anything tongue-in-cheek, is willfully directed by Ronald Donaldson. He serves up plenty of gruesome, vilified action with blood that flows red aplenty. There are lots of gunfights, stabbings, and beatings that are meant to shock an audience. He stages violence as a virtuoso, a sort of symphony conductor who takes on multiple movements. There's a slickness, a hollowness, and an emptiness to what's on screen. Basically, everything feels like it's out of Luc Besson's playbook. But here's the thing: Donaldson does Besson better than Besson does Besson (and that's a good thing).

In the arena of casting, it's obvious that Brosnan is a little too old and worn down to currently play 007. But that's okay because his performance here is similar yet better than anything he's ever done in a Bond film. Pierce must have had a chip on his shoulder after not getting asked to return to that long running film series. The result: he comes back with a vengeance. He's badder, nastier, colder, and more hard edged than he ever was as the famed super spy. In a nutshell, his Peter Devereaux (aka The November Man) could beat the snot out of Jimmy boy and then some. Even though Brosnan has always had strong physical gifts as an actor (he looks believable holding a gun, he uses his hands well which in turn is an effective tool for acting, and he has a pretty cool movie "walk"), I always thought he was kinda wimpy in the role that he inhabited from 1995 to 2002. With The November Man, he's ticked off and overacts a bit, but he gets a chance to play a Bond type in a more gritty, more adult-themed setting. His days playing the suave British Secret Service agent may be over but being James Bond is like being president anyway. Sooner or later, you have to hand the baton over after one or two terms.

All and all, throughout its relatively short running time of an hour and 48 minutes, The November Man is humorless, witless, and devoid of any true human compassion. Frankly, it doesn't have time for these sort of shenanigans. This action thriller is all about business. Initially while viewing it, I wanted to rename it "November Rain" (no pun intended on the 1992 Guns N' Roses ditty). The plot at times, seems all wet. There were way too many characters, too many jumbled story lines, and you couldn't differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. Thankfully, director Roger Donaldson masks this notion by keeping the viewer intrigued and interested anyway. This vehicle is extremely fast paced with lightning quick editing. Once things reach their heightened, staggering conclusion (with a twist I didn't see coming), all the plot puzzle pieces seem to come together just fine. As for its grizzled up, weathered star, all I gotta say is welcome back Pierce Brosnan. You're better off in this world than in the Bond world any day.

Written by Jesse Burleson


  1. I am going to watch this film after reading your review. Thanks Jesse

  2. No problem. I actually enjoyed The November Man. Based on what other critics thought of it, I had a feeling that it would be a disposable, clique-laden spy flick. I'm glad I was wrong

  3. Director Roger Donaldson has made decent thrillers before, but stuck with dud material like this, The November Man is one to forget.

  4. The pace of the film is fast and it generates a lot of tension. The acting is solid, led by Brosnan, who handles this role with aplomb, along with veteran actor Bill Smitrovich ("Ted") who plays CIA section chief Hanley