“The November Man” has car chases, explosions, bad guys who can’t aim, good guys who can’t miss and an indestructible hero.
In other words, it’s a pretty typical action movie. Fortunately for quality-starved August audiences, it’s also entertaining and fast-moving, with a vintage tough-guy performance by Pierce Brosnan.
Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a former CIA operative, code name November Man, who takes a job helping a woman (Mediha Musliovic) escape from Moscow with incriminating information about a powerful politician (Lazar Ristovski).
Peter has a history with her and discovers that his emotional involvement is being used against him. Some of his old colleagues (Bill Smitrovich, Will Patton and Luke Bracey) are calling his loyalty into question (and vice versa), so he has to evade them, along with some very angry Russians.
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All the while, he tries to unravel a conspiracy involving human trafficking and the war in Chechnya, with help from a mysterious young woman (Olga Kurylenko), who may know more than she’s letting on.
Peter is a rough, ruthless character, and you get the distinct sense that he’s the man Brosnan’s James Bond should have been. In his four films as 007, Brosnan showed hints of a vicious quality that he never got a chance to explore fully (that opportunity went to his replacement, Daniel Craig).
In “The November Man,” Brosnan plays his antihero to the hilt, beating and shooting his way through the dark side of the spy game. With former Bond Girl Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace”) as his primary co-star, Brosnan (who also produced) makes the gritty reinvention complete.
Director Roger Donaldson has turned out similarly efficient thrillers in the past, including semi-classics like “No Way Out,” “Thirteen Days” and “The Bank Job.” He knows how to pace a story like this, and “The November Man” barely pauses to take a breath. That can cover a multitude of filmmaking sins, and Donaldson almost makes the cliches and plot holes disappear into the mayhem.
“The November Man” is based on a book by Bill Granger, who wrote several Peter Devereaux adventures. If the movie does well, this could be a new franchise opportunity for its star. It won’t have the Bond series’ iconic status, but it could offer Brosnan the chance to break out of that tux-and-martini mold and into something a little more dangerous.
‘THE NOVEMBER MAN’
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use