October 9, 2014
Pierce Brosnan is one of those actors that have a distinct look and suave style that he cannot shake off in all of his work. Ever since he hit the big time as private investigator Remington Steele on TV in the 1980s, and up to the that time when he predictably became James Bond in the 1990s, he had been our favorite dapper, slick and charming action star.
After a 12-year hiatus as Bond, Brosnan makes this comeback as a spy in "November Man". Like Bond, this is also based on an espionage book series by Bill Granger in the 1970s-1980s featuring the character Peter Devereaux. We are brought back to the era of the Cold War with CIA agents battling Russians.
Peter Devereaux is called back from retirement by his former handler Hanley to extract a deep-penetration agent Natalia, who was secretly Peter's wife. However, a younger rival spy Mason, who was Peter's previous protégé, gets in the way of the mission and kills Natalia. Before her death, Natalia was able to give Peter a vital clue -- a name of a woman who carries the foul secret of the popular Russian presidential candidate Federov.
As Devereaux, Pierce Brosnan still has right look and slick confidence to credibly play a smart action hero. He injects new facets into this new character though, a viciousness and hot-headedness that we have not really seen from him before. He is not the epitome of cool in this one.
The rest of the characters though are rather stock. Former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko uses her exotic beauty as an avenging war victim. Bill Smitrovich gets plenty of screen time as the double-dealing Hanley. Lazar Ristovski was at his sleaziest as Federov. The talents of Amila Terzimehic were wasted as the assassin Alexa.
The worst detail though was about the supposed conflict between mentor and his student. The actor who plays Mason, Luke Bracey, may look like a Hemsworth brother, but does not have their screen charisma. The way the story was written did not really have a climactic face-off between these two characters that the trailer or press releases would have us believe. He could not hold a candle to Brosnan. In the ultimate analysis, the Mason character did not really matter in the aftermath of events.
If only veteran director Roger Donaldson handled the whole mentor vs. protégé plot more properly, this could have been a solid and more memorable spy thriller, which may have the potential for a franchise. Pierce Brosnan definitely has it in him to be a leading man (not just one of the Expendables). Acquiring the film rights for this Devereaux book series was a good idea on Brosnan's part, but this first film could have been more spectacular than this to ensure a sequel. 5/10.