Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The November Man

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Title: The November Man

Where Does a November Man Rate On The Scale Of Cinematic Homo sapiens? Slightly above The January Man and substantially below The Omega Man.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Rubber Souls out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Ex-spook is coaxed out of retirement for one last opportunity to murder indiscriminately in violation of international law.

Tagline: "A spy is never out of the game."

Better Tagline: "On Her Majesty's Senior Discount."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Is he a Dr? No, but Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) does have something of a gold finger when it comes to taking out the bad guys, igniting a veritable thunderball of mayhem in his former career. So when his old colleague Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) asks him to do one last job, Devereaux figures you only live twice, and agrees to extract Natalia (Mediha Musliovic), their inside woman who has information that might derail the political aspirations of former Russian general Federov (Lazar Ristovski). Devereaux tries to return from Russia with love, but finds things have changed (unlike diamonds, which are forever). And after the mission goes off the rails, it's never say never again as he becomes embroiled in the hunt for a missing Chechen girl along with a Serbian aid worker named Alice (Olga Kurylenko) and David (Luke Bracey), his former protégé.

Sorry, I'm stopping with the Connery ones.

"Critical" Analysis: Even for someone (like me) who goes out of his way to avoid info about the movies he's about to review, it was hard to escape the negative buzz for The November Man. I didn't know specifics going in, just that the overall opinion was not good. This was mildly surprising, considering how well Brosnan has done with similar roles (The Tailor of Panama, The Thomas Crown Affair). In any event, I dialed my expectations down to "Practically Nonexistent" and resigned myself to the ordeal.

Make no mistake, The November Man is not a great movie. Hell, I'm not entirely sure it qualifies as "good," thanks in no small part to some hilariously illogical behavior. Topping off the list of head scratchers: The CIA operates a surveillance drone unobserved and unmolested in downtown Moscow; Devereaux takes someone (Alice) sought by both the CIA and the FSB back to her well-known place of work; and on top of that, according to this movie, you can just email the New York Times a story alleging war crimes against a respected politician and they'll run that baby.

Even given all that, it's a better Brosnan Bond movie than The Word Is Not Enough or Die Another Day.

Devereaux barely has to be coaxed out of his present-day sedentary life, because like Wolverine, he's the best he is at what he does and what he does isn't operating a lakefront cafe. It's nice to see Brosnan back in ass-kicking mode, even if all the quick cuts and charitable editing can't hide the fact Remington Steele has lost a step or three.

Yet even Brosnan's weary ruthlessness can't carry the movie on its own. Credit also (sort of) goes to an uncharacteristically capable effort by director Roger (The Bank Job) Donaldson and suitably sinister villaineering from Ristovski. They even mercifully avoided shoehorning in a romantic subplot between the 61-year old Brosnan and 34-year old Kurylenko.

Unfortunately, that's the only female-related highlight. As fond as I am of Kurylenko (it's the name; Russians have always been the biggest threat to us Germans), that scantily clad image of her on the poster betrays some decent character development in favor of the ten minutes of quote-unquote undercover work she does to get close to Federov, whose crimes are re-created in unnecessary detail. Other female characters are either shot, stabbed (Devereaux teaching his apprentice another "lesson") or mocked in the most crudely sexist way possible to demonstrate their ineffectiveness.

So I admit my fondness for the 007 franchise may be shading my perspective. In addition to Brosnan (former Bond) and Kurylenko (former Bond girl), you've got Ristovski, who was one of the early losers in the climactic poker game in Casino Royale. Yet if there's another reason to recommend The November Man, it's the way it eschews the gadgetry and flippancy of the Eon titles. Sure, there are too many scenes of spies using whatever awesome OS cinematic intelligence agencies have access to, but there's also a refreshing simplicity to the proceedings, and Brosnan seems equally happy beating the shit out of his former allies as he is taunting them.

The November Man is in theaters today. Or there's always Guardians of the Galaxy for the third time.

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