Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Brosnan kicks butt as vengeful, bitter spy in ‘The November Man’
Whereas Pierce Brosnan as James Bond would bed down virtually all the ladies he encountered, Brosnan’s Peter Devereaux spy has a lot more than ladies on his mind in the edgy thriller worth seeing, The November Man. Here is a ticked-off ex-CIA guy, driven by revenge, and bitter about virtually everything and everybody. It appears that years of faithful government service have twisted Devereaux into his cold hearted demeanor, and now he is surrounded by assassins. Literally.
Maybe it is a cheap shot to make comparisons between Brosnan’s Bond and Brosnan’s Devereaux, but maybe not. After all, he portrayed the man “licensed to kill” in four movies, 1995-2002. The spy genre has been a staple for Brosnan’s career, one that jump started with his title role in TV’s Remington Steele. Despite showing his acting chops in the heavy drama Evelyn, and a musical detour in Mama Mia!, it is Brosnan as a spy the public pays big bucks to savor. In fact, early last year, Brosnan enthusiastically admitted, “We’re gonna do a piece called November Man, so I shall jump back into that arena.” He even played a reluctant spy in 2001’s The Tailor of Panama.
Back he is, and, despite all the expected violence, it makes for comfort viewing. As “The November Man,” Brosnan is a nitty, gritty, Bondish (due to his handsomeness) secret agent with absolutely no penchant for tongue-in-cheek joking, drinking non-stirred booze, or loyalty to the Queen. The gimmicky gadgetry is absent too.
The film is based on one of a popular series of spy novels written by Bill Granger. Director Roger Donaldson, who helmed Dante’s Peak (with Brosnan), nicely balances pulsating action with intimate set pieces. Referencing the latter, of particular note is the car sequence involving Devereaux and his ex-wife.
The “November Man” nickname is revealed in both the movie and its trailer: “After you passed through, nobody lived.” The moniker is apt with the qualification that many of the killings are attributable to the bad guys either chasing or being chased by Devereaux.
After a flashback introduction involving an assassination attempt and the emotionally upsetting outcome that caused CIA operative Devereaux to opt out of the spy game, the action resumes several years later. He is retired, and living a leisurely, obscure life in Switzerland. A young CIA protege, David Mason (played by Luke Bracey), finds Devereaux and wants him back in the spy game. Enough spoiler danger dangled, so let us say the action soon picks up.
Devereaux becomes a reluctant spy who finds himself both with and against his former agency. His adversaries include a corrupt Russian official, the sleazy Arkady Fedorovc (Lazar Ristovski), who is responsible for heinous war crimes the CIA has kept covered up for years. In other words, who can Devereaux trust? Make that “whom.” Further complicating the works, Devereaux becomes a self-appointed protector of key witness Alice Founier (Olga Kurylenko)…who is being tracked by the calculating Russian assassin Alexa (Amila Terzimehic). Then there is Devereaux’s old CIA pal, Hanley (Bill Smitrovich), whose allegiance is questionable. To paraphrase Mad Magazine, it’s spy vs. spy vs. spy.
Two side notes:  Olga Kurylenko was a Bond girl who played opposite Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Quantum of Solace…another Bond comparison.  Playing the assassin with the uniquely attractive face, Amila Terzimehic is a Bosnian champion gymnast.
“Do all your friends try to kill you?” “Eventually,” answers Devereaux. Since a sequel to The November Man is already planned, just announced by Brosnan, Peter Devereaux will undoubtedly continue to encounter hopeless friendships. ——————————
GRADE on A-F Scale: B