There's good news and bad news when it comes to the latest from Pierce Brosnan. The good news is that he doesn't once break into song, as he did, so regrettably, in Mamma Mia!. The bad news is that I was correct back in February when I reviewed Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill and observed that every aging male star is now evidently destined to attempt career reinvigoration by means of a lame Taken rip-off.
The November Man is Brosnan's and, this being the Hollywood landfill that is Labor Day weekend, it is amazingly lame. Personally, I find it hard to believe that in this day and age people can still walk into a studio pitch session, propose the story of a former CIA super-agent forced out of retirement to complete One Last Assignment, and not get laughed out of the room. But then, imitation has always been the sincerest form of filmmaking.
This time around, the over-the-hill killing machine with a very particular set of skills goes by the name of Peter Devereaux. He is summoned back into action by his old boss (Bill Smitrovich), who explains that a fellow operative (Mediha Musliovic) needs to be extracted from Russia in a hurry. We learn she's in possession of "a name" that places her in grave danger, as that knowledge could jeopardize the fortunes of Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), a vicious thug poised to become Russia's next president.
When Devereaux locates the operative in Moscow, however, she is under attack not by Federov's henchmen but by a unit sent by the CIA. This group includes Devereaux's hunky one-time protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey — hey, have you noticed I'm putting a lot of unfamiliar names in these parentheses? That should tell you something), a figure with whom he has business that's as uninteresting as it is unfinished. In seconds, we glean what the agency hasn't figured out after decades of working with Devereaux. Namely, that he and the female agent he's trying to save are more than mere coworkers.
Directed by once-relevant Australian Roger Donaldson (No Way Out), from a script by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek (they're unfamiliar and they're not even in parentheses!), what follows is as boilerplate, derivative and muddled a thriller as I've ever had the misfortune to see. For a guy who used to be James Bond, Brosnan makes a surprisingly unconvincing super-spy, and the story is a meatheaded misfire riddled with loose ends, plot holes and action clichés.
Can you phone in a car chase? If so, that's what Donaldson and co. do here. Of the film's dialogue, what can one say? It makes the most pinheaded Steven Seagal picture sound like Shakespeare. I swear, when Devereaux thwarts the last of the film's inanely long list of double dealers, the bad guy actually growls, "You just doomed us to another decade of conflict." Dr. Evil would demand a rewrite.
And what would a Taken knock-off be without a daughter in distress? Of course Devereaux has a daughter — and, of course, the final act is devoted to his pistol-popping, karate-chopping race against the clock to rescue her from Eastern Eurotrash.
Other than what a mindless mess this is, there are absolutely zero surprises in the 108 minutes of The November Man. You almost literally have seen it all before. More bad news: It doubtless won't be long before the next aging star decides to get his Neeson on, and you get to see it all over again. Who knows, maybe as soon as December.