“The November Man” comes from a book by the late journalist and author Bill Granger, and it has some interesting, novelistic ideas — somewhere. But as an action-thriller from Hollywood, the film contains a few too many lazy, tired moves and dumb ideas.
It begins with the mentor-student relationship between CIA agents Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) and David Mason (Luke Bracey). A mission goes badly, and they part ways.
Years later, Devereaux’s old boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich), calls him out of retirement to help bring in a fellow agent Natalia (Mediha Musliovic), who has been working with a powerful Russian politician, Fedorov (Lazar Ristovski).
Devereaux finds her, but unfortunately Mason is on the scene and the mission ends poorly. Devereaux gets an important name, a girl that might know something about Federov, but the only key to her whereabouts is a beautiful social worker, Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko).
Everything takes place in a high-tech world, where computers can find just about anyone, just about anywhere, at any time — which raises the stakes, but also opens up huge plot holes. For instance, when Devereaux and Alice return to her office to get a file, wouldn’t the bad guys be able to find them fairly easily? Even with the exacting process and procedure, there are too many examples of coincidence and ill-timing to make the movie suspenseful.
Natalia’s theft of information from Federov’s safe is particularly clumsy. It relies on the politician’s speech being too short (yeah, right), and on the fact that he happens to glance at his safe just moments after returning to his office.
Director Roger Donaldson is a veteran genre filmmaker, with “Species,” “The Recruit” and the excellent “The Bank Job” to his credit. He also previously worked with Brosnan on “Dante’s Peak.”
But without good material, he flops.
Interesting themes — such as whether a man can be both a killer and a human being or about the validity of “the-ends-justify-the-means” in world politics — are raised, but squashed beneath the wheels of too many car chases and shootouts.
The centerpiece relationship between Devereaux and Mason never really works, either. The pair cannot generate any chemistry or excitement over a shared history, perhaps because Bracey has an uninteresting screen presence, or perhaps due to the laziness of the proceedings in general.
While Granger wrote a series of Devereaux books — the agent is called “The November Man” because “after he passes through, nothing lives” — but it’s doubtful there will be more movies after this one. It almost seems as though the character did a number on his own story.
The November Man
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko
Written by Michael Finch, Karl Gajdusek
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Running time 1 hour, 48 minutes