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“The November Man” Movie Offers Up Screen Talent Pierce Brosnan In A Spy Caper

One of the problems with playing James Bond as the suave spy in so many films is that the pendulum must swing the other way eventually.  How else to explain the grimace that Pierce Brosnan sports throughout The November Man?

There’s nary a smile nor a wisecrack seen or heard in this bloody, ripped from the headlines take on an action/spy/revenge film, set for the most part in Belgrade.  The plot’s not a bad set-up – Brosnan’s Peter Devereaux is an ex-CIA operative now living quietly in Switzerland with his daughter.  He gets enmeshed in a plan to find the whereabouts of Bosnian refugee Mila Filipova, who has some dirty dope on a strong contender for the Russian presidency.

Along the way, Devereaux has to deal with a former partner, David Mason, whom he failed to recommend for advancement – they use the term ‘dropped’ in the film – with serious authority issues.  The CIA, the FSB, the New York Times, there’s a lot of name-dropping here, in a simple tale about the hunt for the mysterious Mila.

I’m not sure why any charm or personality had to go out the window in the making of this film.  We know already that Pierce Brosnan has loads to spare, so why did he feel compelled to look so bleak, so…constipated?  I think maybe the producers were aiming for ‘hard-boiled’ but what they got was ‘overcooked’.  Luke Bracey as David Simon is equally charmless and generic.  Not a fault of any of the actors I concede, but one wishes for a little lightness amidst all the grim patter.

The side characters fare better and as an actor, you can bet playing a slimeball is more fun.  There’s the controlling and sexist CIA handler Hanley with his own agenda (friend or enemy?) who refers to another CIA agent as Tits, the resident pimp Denisov who is of course traced to his rightful domain (a strip club,  naturally) to the scuzzy presidential candidate General Arkady Fedorov, who’s a killer and a rapist.

The women in the movie are extremes of another kind, ranging from the dour Russian female assassin to the pretty young thing (Olga Kurylenko) who morphs from a refugee worker to the much sought-after Mila, to a vampy prostitute with eyes by Revlon.

The action, as expected, is over the top, one scene taking place in a crowded market, with Devereaux and Mason playing a game of cat and mouse holding an extensive cellphone conversation along the way.  It’s ludicrous and improbable, but not dull.

If that seems like faint praise, it is – the film is enjoyable in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of way.  What else can you do but laugh when you see the hard-faced Russian assassin take not one, but three guns out of her luggage? Just a little unpacking… Or the scene where Devereaux is shown buying several cellphones and is given a plastic bag to hold them in?  Would Bond be caught with a plastic bag?  Gotta admit it is kind of fun to see the post-Bond Brosnan recreate himself as an action figure in the mold of Sylvester Stallone.

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