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"THE NOVEMBER MAN"
(2014) (Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Spy Thriller: Brought out of retirement to retrieve a deep undercover agent from Russia, a former spy tries to figure out what she was after, why she was killed, and get revenge on those responsible for her murder.
PLOT:
Peter Devereaux (PIERCE BROSNAN) is a retired CIA agent who was once called "The November Man" for leaving a wake of death in his path while on the job. He's called back into action by his former handler, John Hanley (BILL SMITROVICH), who states that an active agent needs to be extracted from Russia and he's the man to do it. She's Natalia Ulanova (MEDIHA MUSLIOVIC) who's working deep undercover for former general Arkady Federov (LAZAR RISTOVSKI) who's now in the running to be the next president of Russia and she apparently has a name that could spoil his political future.

Peter manages to find her, but his former protégé, David Mason (LUKE BRACEY), is ordered by his Langley boss, Perry Weinstein (WILL PATTON), to assassinate the agent who's reportedly believed may have gone over to the other side. Moments before she dies, Natalia hands Peter a phone with pics of people Federov has killed or is currently targeted by his steely contract killer, Alexa (AMILA TERZIMEHIC).

Among them is Alice Fournier (OLGA KURYLENKO), a social worker in Belgrade who was one of the last people to see a young woman, Mira, who both Federov and the CIA want their hands on. At the same time, Mason is ordered to kill Peter and enlists the aid of junior officer Celia (CATERINA SCORSONE) in trying to track him down, while on his downtime he ends up romantically involved with his neighbor, Sarah (ELIZA TAYLOR). With Alice now in tow, Peter tries to get to the bottom of what's going on and who's responsible, and will do anything to get revenge on them.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Maybe it's just me, but do you ever wonder what becomes of movie characters after their last appearance up on the silver screen? While we'll soon have an answer for that regarding Han Solo in the next installment of the "Star Wars" franchise (with Harrison Ford reprising the role), there's a plethora of such characters who disappear forever. Of course, some live on through new actors inheriting those parts, but what about their predecessor's versions?

The series that most directly involves, of course, is the James Bond franchise. Starting with Sean Connery in "Dr. No," the character has also been played by David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and, most recently, Daniel Craig. Since the character has existed since the early 1960s and obviously isn't some sort of immortal, the Bond name is really just a label for Agent 007 who's replaced every so often with a younger agent. While I imagine some retired gracefully, others likely didn't appreciate getting the boot and thus continued, in an unauthorized fashion, with their work.

That's sort of a good frame of mind to have when watching "The November Man," the latest entry in the spy thriller genre that stars none other than Pierce Brosnan. Yes, he's playing a different character who formerly worked for a different spook agency (that being the CIA), but you can sort of picture him being Bond gone bad. Older and with no nifty gadgets, he's become hardened and usually leaves a wake of death in his trail, sort of like his namesake month does to what's left of summer plant life.

The film is based on the novel "There Are No Spies" by Bill Granger and is mostly devoid of the charm and fun that made and continues to make most of the violence in the Bond films go down in an entertaining fashion. Brosnan plays a retired CIA agent who's reactivated by his former handler (Bill Smitrovich) to retrieve an active agent (Mediha Musliovic) from her deep undercover role in Russia trying to get damning intel on the man (Lazar Ristovski) who's likely going to be the next Russian president.

When Devereaux's former protégé (Luke Bracey) is ordered to assassinate her by his Langley boss (Will Patton), the former spy is none too pleased, particularly since he and Natalia were former lovers and then some. As in any such pic of this genre, the mad anti-hero then goes on a killing spree to find out who's responsible and make them pay. It seems the former general turned politician is cleaning house of any potential kindling from his past, and has sent a steely contract killer (Amila Terzimehic) to find and kill a social worker (an appealing Olga Kurylenko) who may know the whereabouts of the last potential personnel problem for him.

Devereaux ends up saving her from that killer as well as the CIA and, natch, always manages to be one step ahead of everyone, just like old Mr. Bond. But 007 wasn't as ruthless as our guy here who has no problem severely wounding the new girlfriend (Eliza Taylor) of his former student. In fact, the film has an ugly and misogynistic bent toward women that doesn't do it any favors. That also holds true for some occasionally far too stilted dialogue and plot & character clichés courtesy of screenwriters Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek.

Director Roger Donaldson ("Thirteen Days," "No Way Out") does manage to keep things moving at a mostly brisk pace, with plenty of action, violence and other adult material for viewers into that sort of thing. But there are a few too many characters in play and Brosnan (and thus the film) have a hard time shaking our view of his character being something other than a Bond-esque variation of a movie spook.

While it has its moments, the lack of charm and its overall ugliness (the brutal violence and views and treatment of many of its women) make "The November Man" feel more like a late August theatrical release rather than the sort of high profile film normally delivered in that eleventh month. Hopefully, mad James Bond, er, Peter Devereaux, won't hold that against me. The film rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 26, 2014 / Posted August 27, 2014


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