This is what I imagine how the studio conversations regarding The November Man went:
- Producer 1: So, those Liam Neeson action movies have certainly be doing well.
- Producer 2: Yes, it may be wise to milk this mature man action hero thing for a bit more.
- Producer 3: You know who’s been STILL looking pretty good these days and doesn’t seem too busy?
- Producers 1 and 2 in unison: Pierce Brosnan!
- Producer 3: Exactly. And people MAY ACTUALLY be a little nostalgic for him as Bond by now…
- Producer 1: Just give the man an exotic locale…
- Producer 2: A hot Eastern European sidekick…
- Producer 3: And some storyline that will seem still sort-of-current to people who loved spy movies in the 90s.
- Producers 1 and 2 and 3 in unison: And we’re in business.
- Executive: Which check do you need me to inital?
- Pierce Brosnan: Sure, I’ll sign up for a fancy paid vacation.
This basically sums up the film, too. The story, and it is a story in the most perfunctory sense, involves an ex-CIA operative (Brosnan), now hanging out in Switzerland (naturally), with a secret child he is raising as a result of an affair with a beautiful Russian double agent, who is dragged into some sort of a cat-and-mouse game in order to protect one girl who can testify to the war crimes of the soon-to-be-elected new Russian president (because, let’s face it, war crimes are often crimes ONLY ONE person can atest to).
Oh, and all of it happens in former Yugoslavia, presumably to add some war crime gravitas to the proceedings (the location, granted, made the movie way more amusing for this reviewer than the average movie goer, since I grew up almost disturbingly close to a lot of filming backdrops and could play the “That is my beach house in the background” game whenever the going got tough… and it got tough often).
The whole thing takes 108 minutes and involves everything on the 1990s/early 2000s spy movie checklist: heavy drinking, secrets, military men you can’t trust at all, American journalists with some basic naivete issues, female assassins with severe haircuts and amazing noses, as well as a healthy does of machismo dripping off the screen at all times. My movie going companion, in absence of the built-in Yugoslavia memory game to occupy his brain during the more insane (yet often dull) moments, passed his time thinking up knockoff Bourne movie names for the film. We decided that “The Bourne Facsimile” was the clear winner.
And it IS a facsimile. The twist, if we are to call it that, is as predictable as they get, and the clues for any and every reveals are obvious in ways that seem almost funny. While Pierce Brosnan looks great, his time would have been better spent on, say, a sequel to Thomas Crown Affair (a leisurely, sly, elegant caper) than the overtly obvious physical action adventure like this.
Still, it is Labor Day weekend, you have already seen Guardians Of The Galaxy and whatever else you saw this summer, and maybe you just need an excuse to spend some money on popcorn and sit in a well air conditioned movie theatre this weekend? If that is the case, The November Man will probably do. Yes, it is bad, but it is bad within expectation and, frankly, you know it never set out to be good either.