Thursday, September 11, 2014

November Man (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“November Man”
A Bond-Like Encore
For Pierce Bronson

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

One of the lessons of having a mentor is that this master-grasshopper relationship doesn’t last. Either the mentor must “kill off” the mentee when his growing skills threaten the relationship. Or the apprentice eventually tries to do in his master to assert himself.

You see it in the wild: Young wolves challenging the head of the pack for dominance.

That story has been told in spy movies before. Charles Bronson was challenged by Jan-Michael Vincent in 1975’s “The Mechanic.” Jason Statham and Ben Foster repeated it in a 2011 remake.

Now in “The November Man” -- the new spy thriller playing at the Tropic Cinema -- we have Pierce Bronson as an ex-CIA assassin being hunted by his former protégé, Luke Bracey.

Here, Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) is a mechanic known as The November Man, because as an old boss tells him, “after you pass through nothing lives.” Having retired to a quiet life in Switzerland, he’s called back into the field to protect a pretty woman who knows too much (Olga Kurylenko). But when he uncovers a plot involving the Russian president-elect, his old CIA handlers assign their best hitman to take him out. Turns out, it’s a guy he trained, his best friend David Mason (Bracey).

Yep, it’s the classic old bull - young bull scenario, with lots of gunplay, car chases, explosions, and James Bond-like derring-do.

This is the first action thriller Pierce Brosnan has done since stepping down from his starring role in the iconic James Bond series. “After Bond slipped away, I didn’t want to do action movies,” says Brosnan. “I wanted to stay away, I wanted to go off and do characters, play in a different tempo. But I think the timing now for this one feels right. Geopolitically it seems to have a certain relevance ... but it’s a hardnosed, hardboiled edge-of-your-seat thriller of the old-school spy genre.”

He says he wanted to have an action hero who didn’t rely on gadgets but used his own wits and intellect, a sassy badass who “gets the job done.”

Too bad director Roger Donaldson couldn’t snag Daniel Craig to co-star in this pitting of old pro against new kid on the block. Instead, relative newcomer Luke Bracey was given the assignment. He’s an up-and-comer with lots of films in the works (he has the Keanu Reeves part in a remake of “Point Break”).

Ukrainian-born Olga Kurylenko plays the burgundy-haired temptress that our hero is out to protect. A former Bond Girl (playing opposite Daniel Craig), you also saw her in “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise.

Not really a James Bond rip-off, “The November Man” is based on a book called “There Are No Spies” by Bill Granger. I remember reading it when it first came out in 1987. Granger was a Chicago newspaperman who wrote political thrillers under a variety of pseudonyms. There are thirteen books in The November Man series. A November Man movie sequel is already in the works.

An old pro who knows how to play the game, Pierce Brosnan tweets, “Well, thanks to one and all out there who have supported my career all these years. I am forever grateful to you. I really, sincerely, hope you enjoy The November Man. I shall carry on doing my best to entertain you all.”

James Bond … Remington Steele … Peter Devereaux … a spy of any other name, we like Brosnan in the role.

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