Every year, distributors dump movies in which they have no faith into one of three dead zones. The first comes in early January, when Oscar contenders are still sucking up the oxygen; the second is in late April, when moviegoers traditionally take a breather before leaping into the blockbusters of summer.
We’re now in the third, a no-man’s-land between the last popular summer films and the more challenging releases of the fall. Someday, a brave studio will put a terrific film out during the last week of August and have the American box office to itself.
But this is not that year, and “The November Man” is not that movie.
Writers Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, who adapted Bill Granger’s book “There Are No Spies,” weren’t content to paint by numbers. They introduce twist after twist, stumbling over their own feet every time. They’re like jugglers who can’t keep three balls in the air but feel confident they can add exercise clubs and a chainsaw.
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Not even old pros Roger Donaldson, who directed “The Bank Job” and “No Way Out,” or Pierce Brosnan, who has played many weary spies and killers, can pull this movie out of its self-dug hole.
Rather than list all its deficiencies, which would be as tedious as counting creases in a fat man’s belly, I’ll share my favorite. The next Russian president is slaying witnesses to an atrocity he committed in Chechnya. He spared a teen he was sleeping with at the time because she was mute and couldn’t report what he did. (Ummm ... she could still write.)
Now he has changed his mind and wants her dead. But in a flashback sequence, when he kills her parents in front of her, the girl is speaking. The screenwriters forgot she wasn’t able to talk!
Brosnan, who’s also an executive producer, is tough yet dignified as Peter Devereux, an agent who controls a fray while standing in the thick of it. Olga Kurylenko does good work as his unwilling sidekick; Bill Smitrovich and Will Patton add flavor as a hot-and-cold team of CIA operatives.
The rest of the film couldn’t convince a sixth-grader it might happen. CIA agents search a home for evidence but leave the front door unlocked and unguarded, so Devereaux sneaks in and knocks them out.
A shootout in a posh Belgrade hotel leaves five men dead – including one who goes over a balcony railing and lands face-first on the floor – without attracting attention. Lead-pipe blows to the head that would kill or concuss any human leave combatants as unfazed as if they were Thor.
At one point, the movie flashes an identity document for Devereaux with Brosnan’s real birth date: May 16, 1953. That means he’s 61, which makes him far too old to think any actor can say “Letting you die was never an option” without provoking a snicker.