Here we are in that time of year after all the summer blockbusters and prior to the late-year rush of Award-Season type movies that studios push out just in December to keep fresh in the voters’ minds. October will be filled with new horror movies, as it should be. Guardians of the Galaxy is still playing (go see it again!) but aside from that, there’s not much to look forward to for a while (Avengers 2 will be out in May!!). We will get a few average action flicks and rom-coms to fill the space. Case in point, The November Man (it’s the former, not the latter, although thinking of it as a rom-com is interesting. Someone re-edit the trailer with Rom-Com music and voice-over!).
It is directed by Austrailian director Roger Donaldson who also did No Way Out, Cadillac Man, White Sands, The Getaway, Species, Dante’s Peak, The Recruit, and The Bank Job. All of those are better than this. Especially White Sands, Species, and The Bank Job.
This particular movie is actually based on Bill Granger’s novel “There are No Spies”, which was published in 1987, and was the 7th Devereaux novel. The first novel in the series was actually called “The November Man”, and was published in 1979. We are first introduced to Devereaux as he is on a CIA mission 8 years ago with his trainee. They are looking to protect a diplomat of some sort who has to avoid an impending assassination attempt. Well, Devereaux’s young recruit says he’s ready, acts like he’s ready, but jumps the gun and fires his sniper rifle, despite being warned by Devereaux to wait. He hits his target, but also manages to kill a small child who was in the line of fire. This apparently was enough to force Devereaux into retirement.
We then catch up with Devereaux 8 years later in that retirement as he relaxes in the bistro he owns. He’s visited by his old handler, Hanley, who lets him know that a woman he was close to needs to defect from the Russian politician she’s been undercover with. See, this Russian politician is about to become the new Russian president, and he’s cleaning up his history by assassinating everyone who knew what he did in the past – which varies from the sex trafficking of young women he kidnapped during the war in Serbia to starting that same war with the assistance of the CIA. This woman, with whom Devereaux had a relationship (I mention that again because the movie hits you over the head with it repeatedly), has information that needs to be known, but, according to Hanley, she will only speak to Devereaux – again, because of their relationship. He heads to Moscow, just as she flees her employer. He rescues her, but she is surprised to see him and clearly was not expecting him. She gives him a phone filled with secrets just as the former trainee, now fully fledged agent, assassinates her on the orders of another CIA operative.
Now Devereaux is left with a phone of secrets, a bitter ex-trainee sniper, a female Russian assassin, a social worker, and a name of a woman who had been the Russian politician’s “pet” and witnessed him conspiring with the CIA to start the war. He has to work fast to put all the pieces together, protect the social worker, and find the girl before the sniper and/or assassin kill him.
That sounds pretty exciting and twisty, right? It’s not poorly put together, Donaldson is a great director who excels at these types of movies (if you’ve forgotten No Way Out – watch that again). So why was my reception of it so lukewarm? It may be the cast;
- Pierce Brosnan plays Devereaux very well, and while I never, ever buy him as American, no matter how good the accent is (it’s not), he does play him as old and weary, yet determined and able. He goes through an entire range of emotions during the case, but in a very subtle manner, which I found very believable. He spends a lot of time drinking – seriously, every time he stops running, he’s drinking – so I am curious if that is a bit from the book? It felt a little out of place in the movie.
- Austrailian actor Luke Bracey plays Mason, the ex-trainee who is now all angry and bitter once he finds out that Devereaux recommended he be let go because he couldn’t follow orders. He really takes that personally. If you are not familiar with Bracey yet – go ahead and get familiar – apparently they are remaking Point Break (sacrilege!) and he is your new Johnny Utah.
- Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) plays the social worker, Alice, and it’s pretty clear from the beginning that she is hiding something. She gets swept up in the chase for this refugee girl that she helped escape Russia, then reveals something that I think everyone saw coming, but still does a good job – I wanted a bit more from her final scene –and were they trying to sell that she and Brosnan had a romantic connection? Because that I would not buy.
- Bill Smitrovich – who you’ve seen in everything – plays Hanley. He’s desperate when he shows up at the Bistro begging Devereaux to get back in the game and help him extract the undercover Russian agent Natalia. He uses the leverage of their relationship (alright already! We get it!), so he knows that Devereaux will not be able to say no. He’s super trustworthy and sympathetic, until he flips, and man – does he flip. He really steals the end of the movie.
- Amila Terzimehic plays the Russian assassin, who was really interesting – and just as I am about to say I could have used more of her in the movie, it occurs to me that I am glad there wasn’t more of her – because that is what kept her interesting. You have never seen her in movies before, but she was a Bosnia and Herzegovinia Rythmic Gymnastics champion – which explains the scene of her stretching. She’s vicious and efficient, and was really cool in this movie.
- Lazar Ristovski plays the Russian politician Arkady Federov. I can’t tell if he was really good at playing the slimy, villainous Federov, or if he just is that way. He’s basically the same character as all Russian politician characters in movies like this. You cannot wait for him to get his comeuppance, and thank goodness he does.
- Will Patton has what is almost a cameo as Perry Weinstein, the CIA head who orders several hits, and seems to be the bad guy. He’s really around to push Mason to get angry with Devereaux, because Devereaux recommended he be dropped, and because Devereaux hid his relationship with Natalia from him. And because Devereaux told Mason he couldn’t have relationships, but then had one of his own – how dare he! Also – not sure about the hair, clearly a wig to cover his Falling Skies hair, and not really a good one.
It’s not bad, really – It’s just unoriginal. It seems to be the same political spy/espionage movie you’ve seen a dozen times. It could have been great, the cast is certainly capable, but with a few changes here and there to bring in some real chemistry – or someone really interesting to watch, the movie may have been even better. As it is, it’s just fine for this time of year. If it had come out it May – it would be worse!
6 out of 10 – Gained points for Patton being evil behind a desk. Lost points for the R rating, which was probably not necessary – they could have trimmed out some of the language and blood. Gained points for Terzimehic – she was pretty awesome. Lost points for the weird slow motion in weird parts. It just felt like it didn’t fit. Lost points for Devereaux’s constant drinking…I mean really, who does he think he is - James Bond?
Bonus Video 1: The Thomas Crown Affair Remake. I loved Pierce as James Bond – but this is my favorite Pierce Brosnan movie.
Bonus Video 2: Species – a really cool sci-fi flick by the same director, with a great cast!
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: