Looking like he's barely aged since his days as super spy James Bond, Pierce Brosnan seems like the more natural fit for a Taken-style thriller than Liam Neeson. But for the most part Brosnan has been relegated to romantic comedies, dramas, or fracturing ear drums in musicals like Mamma Mia. Fortunately for us, somebody finally decided to tap into all that charm and charisma Brosnan has left over. Unfortunately, all that good energy is wasted in The November Man, a derivative and frighteningly dull action flick being eyed as a potential franchise.
Based on the seventh book in Bill Granger's series, The November Man reteams Brosnan with his Dante's Peak director, Roger Donaldson. Full disclosure: Dante's Peak is a personal favorite and Donaldson has done other solid work in the past, such as The Bank Job, so expectations for me were higher than perhaps they should have been. Still, there's no excuse for how boring and incomprehensible so much of The November Man is, and perhaps it has to do with the overlong production that began after Brosnan had his final shaken martini in 2005.
Brosnan plays savvy CIA agent Peter Devereaux, who along with his protégée David Mason (Luke Bracy, dry as toast) botched a high-profile assignment years earlier. Devereaux decided to call it quits and retire peacefully to Lake Geneva, running a bistro and enjoying the quiet. It doesn't last, of course, and before long he's called into "one final mission" by his ex-handler (Bill Smitrovich) to protect a former flame. It, too, goes belly-up and soon Devereaux is the target of the CIA's new top killer, which turns out to be David.
One of the reasons why the Bond movies are so successful is that, despite being about the murky world of British espionage, the stories are pretty straight-forward. Bad guy has an evil plan, Bond shows up, sleeps with some hot women, and saves the day. The worst spy stories are needlessly convoluted, almost as a means of capturing the shaky allegiances of those who deal in lies. The November Man is just such a case, and soon Devereaux is neck deep in a plot involving an evil Russian presidential candidate, some dirty dealings in Chechnya, a social worker (Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko) with a mysterious past...and a neighbor's nosy cat. Yeah, you read that last part right. None of this stuff is very interesting, in fact it's a total snooze every time some character starts droning on about past indiscretions, and it happens far too often. It's a total drag that Donaldson's workman-like direction can't fully compensate for no matter how many chases he throws at it. What does work, and is sadly given short shrift, is the father/son dynamic playing out between Devereaux and David with the youngster divided on whether to kill or help his mentor. Devereaux's still got the goods and has a few tricks to confound his young padewan, and he's not against putting innocents in harm's way to make a point. His moral ambiguity, played remarkably well by Brosnan, could have been the centerpiece for the thrilling introduction to a captivating new hero. There's always a chance they'll get it right in the future. A sequel to The November Man is already in the works, and while that may be premature considering how bad this first effort is, it affords Brosnan another chance to kick some ass and look like a million bucks while doing it.