"Devereaux, Peter Devereaux" just doesn't have the same ring to it as Pierce Brosnan's other super-spy role.
In "The November Man," the erstwhile Agent 007 plays an ex-spook grudgingly drawn out of retirement for one last mission, and although many film critics agree that Brosnan still has some juice, most also say he can't save the movie from a convoluted, cliche-ridden plot.
In a review for The Times, Robert Abele writes, "Brosnan is aging quite nicely as a leading man, but even his residual appeal running around again in agent mode is diluted by [his] character's inconsistencies, a hindrance unaided by the screenplay's silly soup of the gritty and the ridiculous."
Abele adds, "As for the thrills, they're loud but empty. Director Roger Donaldson ('The Bank Job,' 'No Way Out') can be a muscular and kinetic action director when others are mostly chaotic. But this is an intemperate effort, busy and bloody without ever being especially exciting."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub says, "It's good to see Pierce Brosnan shooting dumb henchmen again and driving through narrow European streets at unsafe speeds.… Unfortunately, 'The November Man' isn't worthy of Brosnan's audience-friendly legacy. Often frustrating and at times incomprehensible, the Bourne/Bond clone keeps the pulse racing but ultimately fails to satisfy."
Brosnan, Hartlaub adds, "does his best to sell each betrayal and allegiance shift, and his presence makes even the dumb parts watchable. But too much is left unexplained, and each plot reveal seems to beg an additional three questions."
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday writes, "'The November Man' is less a movie than cinematic filler, the kind of audio-visual wallpaper meant to keep movie screens occupied with bland, instantly forgettable product while 'Guardians of the Galaxy' plays itself out and better, smarter movies settle nervously into their gates for the fall awards race."
Donaldson, she says, "makes efficient hack work" of the script and delivers a "classic August movie: a triumph of competence over imagination and schlock over taste."
Entertainment Weekly's Jason Clark says the movie "could easily have been made in Brosnan's post-'Remington Steele' days, with its fondness for familiar '80s action tropes like smashed BMWs and heavy arterial spray. Once in a while, there's a certain drive-in/double feature junkiness that elicits a chuckle or two … But the utter lack of originality eventually sinks the movie, and the climax has more howlers than a wolf convention."
Not every critic is giving "The November Man" such a harsh debriefing, though. The Detroit News' Tom Long says the film is "both more taut and tough than you'd expect from a late August spy action flick," and "far grittier than a Bond escapade."
Donaldson "bounces ably between betrayals, revelations, gunfights and ultimatums," Long adds, and although the movie stumbles at times, "It shoots straight, runs fast and is thoroughly, almost convincingly, paranoid."
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