By: Kevin Jordan
With the end of the summer movie season having gone by, we’ve entered the part of the movie year I like to call the second armpit (January/February being the first). This is the time when Hollywood takes a back seat to the new television season and the start of the NFL season, so basically doesn’t care what movies are hitting theaters until Thanksgiving. This is actually an interesting time to see movies because there is so little hype that you have no expectations going into a movie, thus are most likely to be surprised – good or bad. Kicking off the armpit is Pierce Brosnan’s return to action in The November Man and I can say this armpit’s not smelling too bad so far.
(SPOILERS dead ahead.)
The November Man might as well be called Not-Quite James Bond or Almost-Jason Bourne. Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a grizzled CIA agent brought out of retirement to help extract a deep-cover agent from Russia. The agent, Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic), has discovered crucial information about prospective future Russian president, Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski) and must get out of Russia before Federov’s men kill her. Not surprisingly, the extraction mission goes awry, Natalia dies, and Peter is framed as an enemy of the CIA. Luckily, Natalia shared her information with Peter before her death and the film becomes a race between Peter, the CIA, and Federov’s assassin, Alexa (Amila Terzimehic) to find Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko) who knows how to find the girl that Natalia named to Peter. Got all that? Lots of action and killing ensues and Prosnan does his best to remind us that Liam Neeson isn’t the only old guy who can still kick ass.
The movie follows a pretty generic path, twisting where you’d expect, revealing the mystery in a timely manner, and delivering the motivation of the villains in the form of the clichéd monologue. It’s exactly what you expect and want from a movie like this and it is successful in providing intrigue and entertainment. Where it gets weak is with the secondary character, David Mason (Luke Bracey), Peter’s former protégé who is tasked with hunting down Peter.
The first scene of the movie takes place five years earlier with Peter giving Mason a lesson in love – that lesson being “don’t.” Peter points out the obvious – loved ones and relationships make agents vulnerable. What’s odd about the lesson is that comes in response to Mason flirting with a waitress. Maybe Peter knows something we don’t, but what if Mason just wants to get laid? The film seems to go out of its way to make a puritanical commentary that sex can only be had in meaningful relationships. I can tell you from experience that this is just flat out false. As the film wore on, that commentary was reinforced twice and both instances were equally full of shit.
The first instance wasn’t even in the movie at all; it was from the woman sitting behind me who was campaigning for worst parent of the year. As a parent myself, there are many things I think about, including how I would handle certain situations, and this woman demonstrated choices that can only be described as “how NOT to parent.” Bad parenting choice number one was taking her seven-year old daughter to an R-rated movie. R-rated means bloody violence, nudity, and a liberal use of the word fuck. I have no intention of hiding those things from my own kid, but I’m not going to go out of my way to expose him to those things if anything to avoid the inevitable nightmares he would have from watching a guy fall from a balcony and smash his head open. Yeah – that happened in the movie.
Bad parenting choice number two was what this woman believed was appropriate for her daughter to see. About thirty minutes into the film, there’s a scene in a strip club featuring topless women and the woman’s reaction to her daughter was “Oh! You have to cover your eyes for this part.” Are you kidding me!? Apparently, she’s perfectly okay with her kid watching people murder each other and telling each other to fuck off, but a couple of naked boobies cross the line? Does she honestly believe seeing boobies or sex is more traumatizing than graphic violence and murder? Or is she actually hoping her kid will learn to murder people, but keep it in her pants? What should scare you even more about this woman (and every parent with similar beliefs) is that she’s allowed to vote. But I digress.
Getting back to Mason, the second instance is actually in the movie and all but announces “sex=love.” Mason is living in Belgrade in an apartment across from the hot, young, blonde, American Sarah (Eliza Taylor). Sarah’s cat is always getting into his apartment and after eight weeks of constantly rejecting her pussy (sorry, I couldn’t resist – the innuendo is anything but subtle) and living by Peter’s earlier lesson, he agrees to on a date with her. In a single night, they go from not even knowing each other’s names (seriously) to scene number two that the seven-year old behind me wasn’t allowed to watch. In the very next scene, Peter has a gun to her head and is forcing Mason to admit his feelings. Not only was I expecting Sarah to turn into a ninja (she doesn’t, even though everything prior seemed to be setting her up as a plant), I was wondering how the CIA’s screening process missed a guy who falls in love with someone the moment he puts his dick in them. Unless, of course, the CIA is in the habit of hiring agents with the emotional experience of recently devirginized teenagers. Then, it makes perfect sense.
The other weak part of Mason is that he is obviously going to help Peter at some point, defying his orders. The problem is that he never has a good reason to flip, which makes the climax of the film a little hard to swallow. Mason is such a poorly developed character that he could very easily be removed from the movie and the movie would barely change at all. A tiny tweak at the end – like using the red herring in place of Mason – and we wouldn’t have had to suffer through several pointless scenes.
Aside from Mason, the movie is a solid action/spy thriller. The pacing is very good and the film never overindulges in action scenes, gratuitous death shots notwithstanding. Mostly, I’m just glad to see Brosnan in an action role again because I always liked him as James Bond and nothing is worse than Hollywood trying to cram Jai Courtney or Shia LeBouf down our throats as believable action stars. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to introduce my two-year old to Predator. Haha – just kidding.
Rating: Ask for two dollars back. If they’re going to include pointless sex scenes like the one between Sarah and Mason, the scenes should really be longer, if anything, just to mess with people like the woman behind me.