November Man
dir Roger Donaldson
prd Sriram Das, Beau St Clair
scr Michael Finch, Karl Gajdusek
with Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Bill Smitrovich, Will Patton, Eliza Taylor, Caterina Scorsone, Amila Terzimehic, Lazar Ristovski, Patrick Kennedy, Akie Kotabe, Mediha Musliovic
release US 27.Aug.14, UK 7.Nov.14
14/US Relativity 1h48
November Man
Off the grid: Brosnan and Kurylenko

brosnan bracey patton
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
November Man Fast-paced and twisty, this cat-and-mouse thriller is packed with revelations and surprises that make it solidly entertaining, even if it feels deeply implausible. A timely use of shady Americans and Russians as politically savvy villains helps, as do the solid performances, but it's over-violent and choppily edited.

Five years after retiring from the CIA, Peter (Brosnan) is called back in by old pal Hanley (Smitrovich) to an operation in Moscow that goes horribly wrong, putting Peter at odds with his former protege David (Bracey). To clean up the mess, David is ordered to kill his mentor. But Peter is still on the case, following the trail to Belgrade, where Alice (Kurylenko) is the key to a plot to blackmail a shady Russian politician (Ristovski). As everyone converges on Alice, Peter grabs her and runs.

This is a pacey, stylish thriller that's full of attitude. Director Donaldson doesn't waste any time, keeping scenes edgy and snappy, racing through plot exposition as if it doesn't really matter so he can get on with more spy action: chases, shoot-outs, drone strikes, ambushes, you name it. All of this centres on a rather ridiculous McGuffin (incriminating photos on an iPhone), but the spy-vs-spy wrangling is entertaining as the cranky loose-cannon Peter runs his own operation off the grid.

Brosnan is clearly enjoying himself, nodding to and obliterating his James Bond past while playfully spinning the master-student premise. Bracey just about keeps up, making it clear that David understands that Peter is really the only person who will ever get to the bottom of things, so their witty "we know each other too well" banter is thoroughly amusing. Meanwhile, Kurylenko has fun vamping it up as if her life depends on it.

The premise offers some serious thematic undercurrents, from political corruption to overreaching espionage. But the film has a refreshing sense of its absurdity, including deliberately silly plot turns and lots of snarky dialog. Still, Donaldson falls into the usual trap of massacring scores of anonymous goons along the way. He also badly handles key sequences that leave the film on wobbly ground. Much of the cross-cutting is jarring, characters appear and disappear at random, and in the end the whole thing shifts into another stupid action romp. But by then we're already hanging on for the ride.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 21.Oct.14

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