Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spy thriller leaves us unshaken, unstirred

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Pierce Brosnan is Bland, James Bland in 007 knockoff.

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Pierce Brosnan is Bland, James Bland in 007 knockoff.

WITH stars Pierce Brosnan (GoldenEye) and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), The November Man deliberately tries to resonate a James Bond vibe in its kiss-kiss-bang-bang milieu of international intrigue.

Alas, it never approaches the intensity or escapist entertainment value of even Brosnan-era Bond. Like a gunpowder-burned Brioni jacket discovered in a Goodwill store, it feels decidedly like a Bond castoff.

Brosnan's character is not so much a blunt instrument as a scalpel. Peter Devereaux is in the assassination business, and in this movie's Russian-Eastern European locales, brother, business is a-booming. (We learn that he is dubbed the "November Man" by an admiring colleague who observes: "After you passed through, nothing lived.")

But in the film's prologue, Devereaux is getting sick of it all, especially after his brash protegé Mason (Luke Bracey) disobeys an order that gets an innocent bystander killed on a CIA mission.

Devereaux's retirement is short-lived. He is called to help extricate a Russian double agent with damaging intel on Federov (Lazar Ristovski), a vicious war criminal with unseemly political ambitions. It turns out Devereaux has an especially close relationship with said double agent, and when she is senselessly killed -- that is meant literally: her murder by her own allies makes absolutely no sense to the narrative -- Devereaux goes on his own rogue mission of vengeance against his former masters.

As per Bond formula, the key to the mystery is a beautiful woman. That would be Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko), a relief worker with a specialty for rescuing Chechen women forced into sexual slavery. One such girl could provide evidence against Federov and both the Russians and the CIA are entered in the race to find her.

Director Roger Donaldson has paddled in spy thrillers before (No Way Out, The Recruit) and he can keep his head above water. Yet he consistently botches the opportunities that come his way. For example, we are introduced to a cool, lithe Russian assassinatrix (Amila Terzimehic) who promises to be a formidable opponent for Devereaux. Then she seems to drop out of the movie altogether before a climactic showdown that spectacularly fails to live up to its promise.

That pretty much sums up The November Man, suggesting another reason for the killer's colourful monicker: After he passes through, you'll just feel numb.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2014 C3

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