DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE NOVEMBER MAN (director: Roger Donaldson; screenwriters: from novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger/Michael Finch/Karl Gajdusek; cinematographer: Romain Lacourbas; editor:  John Gilbert; music: Marco Beltrami; cast: Pierce Brosnan (Peter Devereaux), Luke Bracey (David Mason), Olga Kurylenko (Alice Fournier), Mediha Musliovic (Natalia), Bill Smitrovich (John Hanley), Will Patton (Perry Weinstein), Eliza Taylor (Sarah), Lazar Ristovski (Arkady Federov), Amila Terzimehic (Alexa). Patrick Kennedy (Edgar Simpson), Ben Willens (Agent Jones), Caterina Scorsone (Celia); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Beau St. Clair/ Sriram Das; Relativity Media; 2014)

"Pierce Brosnan does a good job going James Bond-blunt on us instead of taking 007's usual suave way."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It might be predictable, merely lightweight escapist summer fare and filled with derivative espionage action pic tropes, cliches and double-crosses, but it was entertaining, well-executed hokum, with good location shots of Serbia and its star Pierce Brosnan does a good job going James Bond-blunt on us instead of taking 007's usual suave way. Aussie filmmaker Roger Donaldson ("The Recruit"/"The Getaway"/"Dante's Peak"), a seemingly natural helmer for dumb action flicks, directs by mixing in all the usual spy thriller ingredients, from car chases to lethal gun fights to a mole in the agency, while writers Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek keep the incredulous tale from going too far afield by keeping the twists down to a manageable number even if excessive. What it never gets right is turning it into a thriller that makes sense. It's based on the 1986 novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger, who wrote in the 1980s a series of spy books.

It opens in 2008 with the ruthless legendary CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), whose code name is November Man. He lives by the code of no personal attachments, and is mentoring his brash young surrogate son  in training, David Mason (Luke Bracey, Aussie actor), on how to become a hard-ass CIA operative. In an assassination attempt on an ambassador in Montenegro, Peter admonishes the impetuous kid for firing when told not to, which results in the death of a child in the crowd, and thereby passes on him as an agent (which evidently doesn't end his career as an agent, as we later see him as the commander of CIA field unit). After that incident, which took place five years ago, Peter has retired to live a peaceful and secret life in Switzerland operating a classy small café. But his former boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) calls him out of retirement to protect an important Russian spy, Natalia (Mediha Musliovic), who is going over to the American side and has the goods on Russia's leading candidate to be its next leader, the brutal, corrupt and womanizing sleazebag Russian ex-general from the second war in Chechnya, Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), a Putin-like figure, who was involved in some egregious activities during the war and is killing off all those who know things of his war crimes that could harm his political career. Peter is also ordered to get from the spy a name that will give the Americans all the info that's needed to bring Federov down whenever needed. But the spy is assassinated by agent Mason, on orders from Perry Weinstein (Will Patton), who usurped the command of the CIA mission from Hanley. Mason is stunned when he finds out Natalia is Peter's former lover and the mother of his 12-year-old daughter he secretly raises in Lausanne. For the pic's remainder Mason and Peter play a cat-and-mouse game to see who is the superior macho super agent and who has the moral courage to do the right thing when it counts the most.

Because of the mission, the aging Peter, brought back for one last job, winds up in the thick of a disturbing CIA spying operation and becomes a hunted man on the run by the deceitful men at Langley. To clear things up, Peter gets involved with the mysterious Belgrade social worker Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko, former Bond girl), helping sexually abused women in Eastern Europe and in particular treated the girl named by Natalia who treated the minor who was sexually abused by Federov. Peter instinctively finds that she's so vulnerable, he has to protect her from a deadly limber Russian woman assassin (Amila Terzimehic, the national champion of Bosnia and Herzegovina in rhythmic gymnastics) sent by Federov and from assassination attempts from the CIA power-hungry honchos Weinstein and Hanley.

The pic excites by moving at a lightening pace and is enjoyable if you are unperturbed by how it trivializes all the characters (except for Brosnan) and how the complex plot annoyingly keeps world politics secondary to daddy issues and offers only cynical answers that only demand more questions from a more realized and less shapeless thriller.

REVIEWED ON 8/29/2014       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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