If you’re a completist, you might want to get in on the ground (film) floor of “The November Man.”
That is because plans already have been announced for a sequel to the espionage thriller opening in theaters Friday and based on Bill Granger’s novel “There Are No Spies.” Pierce Brosnan stars as Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent whose nickname of “November Man” came because, as a colleague says, “After you passed through, nothing lived.”
The movie opens in 2008 in Montenegro with the chilly Devereaux and his CIA protege, agent David Mason (Luke Bracey). When the older man sees the younger one cozying up to a waitress, he advises with dispassion, “You feel the need for a relationship, get a dog,” and when the men join forces to safeguard a visiting ambassador, an innocent bystander pays the price for deadly chaos.
The action then jumps forward 5 years to Lausanne, Switzerland, where the retired Devereaux meets with an old colleague (Bill Smitrovich) about a woman who wants to come in from the cold with some explosive information about a Russian who could be the next president. The politician has been working with a female contract killer to clean up his past, and the CIA agent could be in grave danger.
As Devereaux also tries to protect another woman (Olga Kurylenko) on the run from assassins, he dodges bullets, double-crosses and details from his past in this thriller that allows Brosnan to tap back into his James Bond roots. This character is obviously older, slightly heavier, graying at the temples and tosses back hard liquor, not vodka martinis or bon mots.
Directed by Roger Donaldson, “November Man” manages to spring a couple of key surprises. You might see one or two coming, but it’s doubtful you will anticipate all of them and that elevates this hard-edged, violent and sometimes bloody thriller.
It makes nifty use of a drone but improbably stages a shootout and chase in a luxury hotel that draws not a peep from security and conveniently keeps an agent’s cellphone number unchanged for years. It offsets some misogyny with the lady assassin but, as is often the case, runs a global operation with a surprisingly small number of people.
At 61, Brosnan is still a very credible action star, and Kurylenko – coincidentally a Bond girl opposite Daniel Craig in “Quantum of Solace” – a chameleon. “The November Man” isn’t 007 or Jason Bourne, but it’s better than its end-of-summer slot (often a dead zone) might indicate.
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko.
Rating: R for strong violence including sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use.