'The November Man' Review: Brosnan Rises Above By-the-Numbers Spy Thriller

'The November Man' Review: Brosnan Rises Above By-the-Numbers Spy Thriller

Pierce Brosnan has finally arrived at the place he’s desired since his first turn as James Bond in “Goldeneye” nearly 20 years ago, straight through to a self-conscious attempt to get there in 2005’s “Matador.” Finally at age 61, Brosnan is ruggedly handsome instead of pretty.

Middle age and a few pounds have done wonders for Brosnan. He looks great, still moves like a young man, and is perfectly cast in Roger Donaldson’s “The November Man” as a burnt-out ex-CIA operative who leaves only death in his wake.

The TV star is gone. The Movie Star has fully arrived.

Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) drinks too much and understands that the only way to keep his edge, while doing a dangerous job in a dangerous world, is to not give a damn about anything or anyone. That includes his young protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey), who just blew a major assignment. Fast-forward a few years. Devereaux is retired but of course pulled back into the Agency for One Last Job. This time it’s personal, and due to the always murky politics of the CIA, Devereaux and Mason will go mano y mano.

The plot revolves around a soon-to-be Russian president and a missing girl who has the goods on him. Whoever owns the girl owns the Russian president. Soon-To-Be wants her dead. America wants the leverage. The New York Times wants the truth. The CIA wants to cover up its past. Devereaux wants revenge. Everything centers on a sexy social worker (former-Bond girl Olga Kurylenko), and you can bet the script will require her to dress up as a hooker.

“The November Man” is fast-paced and certainly holds your attention. It is, though, terribly uninspired. A smart, serious pass just at the dialogue could’ve done wonders, as would a couple of action scenes set at 7 instead of 3 or 4. No one’s expecting 007-level action from a $21 million budget. What was needed was an added layer of intelligence and suspense to the ones we got. Think about that moment in “The Bourne Identity” (2002) when Matt Damon rips the fire evacuation map off the wall to learn the floor plan of a building quickly filling up with bad guys — like that.

Devereaux’s character is also wildly inconsistent. There’s a scene about halfway through where he confronts Mason and does something truly despicable. At first you think this is an exciting turning point — and a smart one: Oh, so he’s the bad guy! But then the movie just rolls on as though it never happened. What we come to learn later about Devereaux only makes less sense of it.

As the protégé, Bracey is just too bland in that ChanningTatumChrisEvansJonathanRhysMeyers vein to leave a mark. But the plot does turn, and does so in a couple of truly surprising ways. If the dialogue and action were as good as the plotting “The November Man” would’ve been truly special.

As is, thanks mainly to Brosnan’s presence, this rudimentary, by-the-numbers spy-thriller makes for a perfectly fine time at the movies. If nothing else, it’s a nice change of pace to see an actual adult running around killing people. The LeoShiaMatt Bugsy Malone vibe is nowhere to be found. 

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC  

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