The November Man (2014)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/2/14
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey, Amila Terzimehic

"Do all of your friends try to kill you?"

Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is a retired ex-CIA agent, living out a peaceful existence as the owner of a small Italian café. Not surprisingly, his happiness comes to an abrupt end when his old boss shows up with news that the Russians are hunting down and killing fellow agents, and a very close friend of his is likely to be next. He accepts a mission to get her safely out of Russia, but things go terribly wrong when he runs into his former student, David Mason (Luke Bracey). Double-crossed by the agency, Devereaux goes rogue and has to track down another person of interest named Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko) before either the Russians or the Americans find her. Mason utilizes all of his skills and training to hunt his former mentor, while Devereaux tries to stay alive long enough to figure out why everyone wants Alice dead.

It's a bleak and nasty political action thriller that starts out strong, but falters in the final act when it completely throws consistency and plausibility out the window. An old and weary Pierce Brosnan fits the role of Devereaux nicely, but much like "Jack Reacher" (2012), he's ruthless, unpleasant, and intensely dislikable, which makes the movie difficult to watch at times. You can't argue with his results, though. Olga Kurylenko proves once again that she's the best thing about every film she's been in, and delivers an excellent and compelling performance. Sadly, like many beautiful women in the industry, Ms. Kurylenko seems doomed to play only thankless window dressing roles, damsels in distress, and prostitutes, and in this film she plays all three! The only other character that can compete for the audience's attention is a Russian assassin played by gymnast Amila Terzimehic. She has an amazing and fiercely physical presence, and the focus and cold determination of a seasoned professional killer. Unfortunately, she is seriously underutilized, and the film would have benefited considerably if she had been treated as a greater threat.

Production wise, it's merely average. The Belgrade locations are beautiful and well lit, but the camera work tends to be sloppy and the action scenes suffer from questionable editing. The story is gritty and violent, and the moral ambiguity makes it hard to empathize with anyone except Alice. While her "secret" is immediately apparent from the moment she shows up, the other plot twists become increasingly ridiculous and only succeed in punching holes in the narrative and invalidating previous events. In the end, the fate of our protagonists remains uncertain, but the film closes on a great and shockingly raw punch line.