Pierce Brosnan stars as a retired CIA agent brought back into the game in 'The November Man.' (Aleksandar Letic / Relativity Media)
Filled with efficient thrills, “The November Man” is both more taut and tough than you’d expect from a late August spy action flick.
Then again, it’s produced by and stars Pierce Brosnan, who knows a thing or two about spy movies, although this fast-moving yarn is far grittier than a Bond escapade. It has none of the comic touches that inevitably color that franchise and which Brosnan has so wisely incorporated into much of his post-007 career. This is all guns and conspiracy.
Brosnan plays Devereaux, a former spy and hit man retired for five years when an old CIA boss, Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) shows up to pull him back in. A former colleague and lover is trying to get out of Russia. Devereaux goes to extricate her, but finds himself battling with his former protege, Mason (Luke Bracey).
The woman dies after giving Devereaux information and suddenly he’s on the run from the agency he thought he was helping out. The information brings Devereaux to Alice (Olga Kurylenko), an aid worker who may know the whereabouts of a missing Chechen refugee. This refugee can prove that the future head of the Soviet Union is a corrupt monster.
Got that? Of course not. But veteran director Roger Donaldson (“The Bank Job,” “The Recruit”) bounces ably between betrayals, revelations, gunfights and ultimatums. Of course there are some blank spots — it’s a spy movie, there are always leaps of logic — and adding a Russian assassin (the striking Amila Terzimehic) into the mix may be a bit much, but at least the film keeps moving.
Which isn’t to say it never stumbles. An interlude in which the trained assassin Mason stops in the middle of everything to go dancing with and bed his next door neighbor is a too-apparent lead-in to a “are you man or machine” speech from Devereaux. It feels too much like a life lesson insertion.
And a question: Why do the women in just about every spy movie always happen to be otherworldly beautiful? Kurylenko is a perfectly fine actress and it’s not her fault she always looks like she just walked off a Vogue cover, but someday it would be nice to see Lena Dunham or somebody more real looking in one of these films. Yes, it’s Hollywood, but still.
Such concerns aside, though, “The November Man” is a sturdy-enough addition to the action spy (as opposed to the thoughtful spy) canon. It shoots straight, runs fast and is thoroughly, almost convincingly, paranoid.
'The November Man'
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Running time: 108 minutes