Pierce Brosnan knows what it is like to play a spy in a big-budget, glamorous, blockbuster. He was the most urbane of Bonds in four movies. He knows what it is to play a seedier spy in a prestige, mildly meta movie, the 2001 film “The Tailor of Panama” (with Daniel Radcliffe in a pre-Potter role). So perhaps he thought it was a good idea to produce and star in “The November Man,” a spy story set mostly in Eastern Europe, based on There Are No Spies by Bill Granger. It was not. “The November Man” barely reaches the standard of a generic throw-away thriller, with a sub-par storyline and painfully tiresome dialog.
It begins in 2008 Montenegro, as a venerable CIA operative named Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) sees his young padawan smooching with a pretty girl at an outdoor cafe and harshly explains that personal relationships are out of the question in their line of work. He indicates a guy with a telephoto lens at a nearby table. “Us or them?” the spy-in-training asks. “How the F should I know? Does it really matter?” the world-weary sensei responds. This brief exchange tells you pretty much everything you need to know, or, rather, will find out whether you want to know it or not. Do you think that Devereaux will have some personal entanglement of his own? Do you think the question of who is “us” and who is “them” will provide the twist so unsurprising that even the idiot with the roller bag who wanders out of the hotel elevator without noticing that everyone around him has guns could figure it out? Are the answers to these two rhetorical questions obvious? Well, so is the movie.
Obvious, that is, when it isn’t just being stupid. Throughout the film, shoot-outs, car chases, and explosions occur almost constantly and yet none of the extras ever seem to notice and no one ever calls the police.
The sidekick trainee is David Mason, played by Australian actor Luke Bracey with a blankness that may explain why he was cast as Johnny Utah in the unnecessary upcoming remake of “Point Break.” Bill Smitrovich is, as always, just fine as Dvereaux’s spy boss. Brosnan, even with all of his movie star charisma, cannot make this tired storyline or pedestrian action scenes hold our interest. It is all as pointless as the explanation for the title — a character explains that was Devereaux’s office nickname because after him, there’s nothing left. Huh? After November is, well, December, and Christmas, and then a whole new year. Pondering the meaning of the nickname, though, was much more entertaining than the film.
Parents should know that this film has extensive spy-style peril and violence including some graphic and disturbing scenes, guns, explosions, chases, torture, with many characters injured and killed, also rape, child prostitution, terrorism, drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual references and situation, and very strong, offensive, and crude language.
Family discussion: How can we balance the need for national security with the need for accountability? How did Mason decide who to trust? What does the reveal about the villain tells us about contemporary geopolitics?
If you like this, try: Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond films and “The Matador”