A quick word on THE NOVEMBER MAN. It’s the recently-released-on-video Pierce Brosnan spy joint directed by Roger Donaldson (SPECIES). Brosnan plays Peter Deveraux, an ex-CIA guy (not MI5, interestingly) who gets called in for one last mission for personal reasons, gets betrayed, has to straighten things out and make those motherfuckers wish December would get here real quick. The intrigue involves a brutal Russian general (Lazar Ristovski, CASINO ROYALE) on the verge of becoming president and various parties trying to find a woman who might have incriminating information about him or something. But to Deveraux it’s just about the fact that the agency had his old protege Mason (Luke Bracey, Cobra Commander in GI JOE’S RETALIATION, soon to be remake Johnny Utah) snipe his old girlfriend Natalia (Mediha Musliovic). What the fuck, CIA.
There seems to be kind of a dispute within the agency. On one side you have Hanley (Bill Smitrovich, BAND OF THE HAND), who’s charmingly macho and politically incorrect and brought Peter into this because they’re old war buddies. On the other you have the smarmy Weinstein (Will Patton, ROADHOUSE 2: LAST CALL) who coldly gave Mason the order to shoot, and is a dick, and fuck that guy even though he and Peter and Hanley are all old war buddies.
Peter can’t know who to trust, because he hasn’t seen as many of these type of movies as we have, but he goes after the information they want, finding case worker Alice (Olga Kurylenko, QUANTUM OF SOLACE), who might know the girl in question, just before a scary Russian female assassin (Bosnia-Herzogovina Rhythmic Gymnastics Champion Amila Terzimehic) gets to her. That lady is my favorite part of the movie because she keeps coming like a Terminator (though she’s not as effective, because she’s human) and she looks like an athlete, not an actor. When I looked her up I actually thought she would be a kickboxer or punchboxer of some kind. Anyway, Peter and Alice go on the run and he protects her and at first she doesn’t trust him but then relationships, etc. and they try to get to the bottom of this and he has secrets too that are revealed and what not. You know how it goes. If you have an idea of how this type of thing goes in this type of movie, that is exactly how it goes in this one.
From what little I knew I thought this was gonna be an Old Man Action Movie for the Neeson Age. True, it does have him walking around talking tough to people on his cell phone alot. But being 60 isn’t really that important to this one. Younger men also do movies where they have a past and left the agency and have old war buddies. Seagal did it in his very first movie. In fact, Brosnan originally bought the rights to the book (There Are No Spies by Bill Granger, #7 in the November Man series) nine years ago when he first retired from playing Bond. So this is just Brosnan playing the most capable, most killingest spy in the game again, and he’s good at that.
This seems more in the vein of the BOURNE pictures than his Bond, trying to seem real and researched instead of fanciful. That said, they don’t mimic the Greengrass post-action style in the action scenes, which include a couple car chases, alot of shooting, some hitting people with objects, a little bit of fists. The violence is very fast and a little hectic, but it seems like they want you to see it. There’s even a slo-mo part. Take that, The Gritty Realism of Chaotic Handheld Photography! And it’s not ashamed to have a part where he calmly struts away and doesn’t watch the car exploding behind him. It’s not gonna turn its nose up at that proud tradition in the name of fake realisticness.
This guy that plays the younger spy is not necessarily jumping off the screen as a great presence, but he’s a pretty sympathetic character. He’s torn between doing his job and being a human. Peter actually taught him to not have girlfriends and other connections because they could be used against him. Both characters re-learn that lesson, but also they begin to question it. Their hearts grew three sizes that day. Is it better to be a safe spy or to live a life even though it’s dangerous? A question we will all have to face one day if we become spies or are in a spy movie.
There’s a weird scene where Peter captures a girl Mason just started seeing and threatens her. He goes so over the line with her that I actually thought for a bit that it was a reveal, a heel turn, a plot twist where we realize that Peter has been the villain the whole time and we switch sympathies to Mason. But no, it’s just an example of how far he’s willing to go. Kind of refreshing, actually, because most movie heroes say they would do anything to achieve their goal but I don’t think they’d do this.
It’s a decent movie, enjoyable but immediately forgettable. What’s weird is how much the content reminds me of Steven Seagal movies, primarily the DTV spy ones around the time of THE FOREIGNER. The production and supporting cast seem more expensive, but it has many of the same generic elements: ex-CIA hero. Old war buddies involved. Russians. War crimes in Chechnya. A beautiful European woman running around with him. Human trafficking. CIA dirty deeds. But most of all there’s this. THE NOVEMBER MAN has a part where Smitrovich (MANHUNTER) says:
“Know what we used to call you, Peter? The November Man. Cause after you passed through, nothing lived. You were one bleak motherfucker my friend.”
…which of course reminds me of THE GLIMMER MAN when Brian Cox (MANHUNTER) says:
“Suffice to say, to the people he hunted for us, he was known as The Glimmer Man. There’d be nothing but jungle, then a glimmer… Then you’d be dead!”
I’m not saying that the movie, and by extension the entire book series, is completely based around a title and concept that was inspired by watching one of Seagal’s silliest theatrical releases. I’m just saying… it’s interesting. It’s very, very interesting. That’s all.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.