Pierce Brosnan has played James Bond. Contrary to what might be intended, the lead character in The November Man is no James Bond.
This formulaic espionage thriller of vigilante justice and international intrigue only serves to remind moviegoers of better days for both the star and the genre.
This time, Brosnan plays the much considerably less debonair Peter Devereaux, a disgraced former CIA agent who became the fall guy for a botched security operation in Eastern Europe. Five years later, he’s secretly lured out of retirement for a mission in Serbia involving the protection of Alice (Olga Kurylenko), who has valuable information about a political conspiracy surrounding the incoming Russian premier (Lazar Ristovski).
The operation becomes complicated once the ruthless and cunning Devereaux suspects corruption within his own ranks and essentially is forced to turn rogue. That makes him a target, specifically of a former protégé (Luke Bracey) still harboring guilt about the past. During the cat-and-mouse scenario that follows, it’s up to Devereaux to expose the complex criminal plot while still sheltering his witness.
Veteran director Roger Donaldson (The Bank Job) stages a handful of taut action sequences amid the nondescript Balkan locales, yet the film is more interested in providing sudden jolts and gratuitous blood than developing any consistent suspense.
Brosnan proves he still has some action-hero chops through a series of physically demanding shootouts and chase scenes, both by car and on foot. Kurylenko, who was a Bond girl in the post-Brosnan era in Quantum of Solace, manages to rise above the typical damsel in distress.
However, the screenplay by Michael Finch (Predators) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion) – based on a novel by journalist Bill Granger – takes itself way too seriously, with a convoluted and incoherent narrative along with standard-issue villains possessing cloudy motives and endless numbers of henchmen. It also stumbles in the quieter moments by not giving the audience a rooting interest.
With all of the headlines about ongoing political unrest in the region, the film misses an opportunity at contemporary relevance. Instead, for a project that aspires to be a high-tech thriller, The November Man seems stuck in the past.