Brosnan’s back in action as The November Man

Having played James Bond four times, Pierce Brosnan is certainly no stranger to big-screen espionage, so he’s in familiar territory in The November Man, a convoluted adaptation of Bill Granger’s novel There Are No Spies directed by Ronald Donaldson, no stranger himself to screen intrigue (No Way Out, The Recruit).

The resulting film, alas, turns out to be a routine spy melodrama, enlivened by Brosnan’s crisp performance (and sheer presence) as Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA agent drawn back into the shadowy world of covert action. The specifics of the plot are lengthy, but the generalities are not. Basically we have CIA agents and Russian bad guys battling it out in Belgrade – with Devereaux predictably caught in the middle.

Given the ongoing political turmoil in Russia, there’s a certain amount of topicality in that one of the principal villains is a sleazy politician (Lazar Ristovski) angling to become its next president. Other major characters are familiar: Olga Kurylenko as a damsel who may not be as distressed as she initially seems; Luke Bracey as Devereaux’s one-time acolyte, now charged with eliminating him; and Bill Smitrovich and Will Patton as veteran CIA hatchet men, one sharper than the other. Few actors play smug unctuousness as readily and amusingly as Patton, as he previously demonstrated playing Gene Hackman’s hatchet man in Donaldson’s No Way Out (1987).

There are cover-ups, betrayals, fisticuffs, shoot-outs, car crashes and a few plot twists – all de rigueur for the genre. Yet this overwritten and overlong thriller never comes into its own, and even Donaldson’s direction seems disengaged from time to time.

Brosnan (also a producer) strides through the proceedings in charismatic fashion, however, occasionally adding steely bits of humor and ferocity not otherwise evident in Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek’s pedestrian script. He’s the best thing about The November Man, a film that might well be forgotten by mid-September were it not for him.