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Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 12:01 am

Brosnan shines in November Man

Pierce Brosnan as Peter Devereaux in The November Man.


Could the widespread usage and acceptance of Viagra be somehow linked to the spate of action films with heroes over 60 years old in the last decade? Now that sexual virility is attainable at any age, is it such a leap to assume that movie audiences are more willing to accept an AARP man of action stepping into the fray than they were before? Sure John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were both guilty of blasting past the edge of plausibility when they took on tough guy roles when they were past the “sell by” date, but what with The Expendables franchise, the reinvention of Liam Neeson as a man of violent means and Bruce Willis still blowin’ stuff up real good, there seems to be no stopping this wave of aging action guys. Is there a connection between the little blue pill and this trend? Truth be told, I don’t really know. This all just happened to be rattling around in my head while reviewing the latest entry featuring a gray-at-the-temples hero, The November Man.

Surprisingly, this thriller from director Roger Donaldson isn’t half bad, due in large part to its star Pierce Brosnan, who returns to the action genre after far too long an absence. It’s good to see him again. I always thought he was given short shrift where his interpretation of James Bond was concerned. He was able to strike the proper balance between the inherent fun in the role while being able to convincingly execute the necessary derring-do the part required. The easy confidence he brings to November holds him and the movie in good stead. His sheer presence makes it far easier to suspend our sense of disbelief, something that’s required early and often throughout this production.

Brosnan is Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent who’s brought back into the fold by his old colleague Hanley (Bill Smitrovich). Seems Natlia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic) is deep undercover in Russia and has requested she be extracted by the former spook. Devereaux reluctantly goes back into the field and immediately wishes he hadn’t. The operation goes sideways, Ulanova ends up dead and he comes face to face with a former pupil of his, Mason (Luke Bracey), an agent with considerable skills but not the right amount of ice in his veins. They agree to fight another day and walk away, both knowing that this scenario is far from played out. As a result of this mission, Devereaux has obtained the identity of an informant by the name of Mila Filapova, who just happens to have information about a conspiracy involving Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), a militant on the brink of taking over Russia. If this intel gets out, his plans of controlling the country will be put on ice, so he commissions an assassin (Amila Terzimehic) to take out Alice (Olga Kurylenko), a Serbian social worker who may be the only person who knows where Mila is. It comes as no surprise that Devereaux, Mason and a few assorted others are after her as well.

As you can tell there are far too many moving parts at play and getting them all to mesh requires an occasional lapse in logic or a handy coincidence. Frankly, there were times when I wasn’t too sure who was after who and why. However, I don’t think that was due to shoddy storytelling on Donaldson’s part. In the end all is made clear. Unlike most modern action films, November requires that instead of being spoon-fed each important detail you pay attention. It’s a refreshing and at times stimulating approach that pays off in the end.

The twists and turns in the plot, the characters who can’t be trusted and the extended action climax won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen a spy movie before. Donaldson and his crew aren’t out to reinvent the genre; they simply want to prove they can still execute a well-done piece of action entertainment. As for Brosnan, he proves he’s lost none of his intensity nor swagger and can convincingly fill the hero’s shoes. There has always been a sense of vulnerability about him that’s made him accessible to audiences and this comes in play here. When he’s hurt, you feel it, when he fears for his daughter’s life, you empathize and when he threatens to kill, you believe it. In the end, this sort of conviction is all that’s needed to play a James Bond or Peter Devereaux, no matter how old you might be.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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