Thursday, September 11, 2014

The November Man - Dir. Roger Donaldson (2014)

Sometimes I get manic and I get crazy ideas that sound brilliant at the time.  Then later I go back on another bipolar cycle and I don't think doing anything is a good idea.  The request that led to this post is a result of the former state.  
I thank Jay Maronde for spending his $5 to see this movie and write this review for me without any offer of monetary compensation.  However, it is with a sense of unfortunate timing that Richard Kiel (a.k.a. Jaws) passed away today.  Maybe as an homage, the next James Bond film after the one scheduled for production (Bond #25) should involve a plot eerily similar to 9/11.  I digress--I only saw Kiel in Moonraker, but it is easy to see there why he is such an important part of the James Bond Canon.  He effortlessly played a very likable villain that seemed like he could be your friend, to the point that he does become Bond's friend.  I am glad that I can mark his passing with this Bond-related post (and expect it to get more hits than any obituaries posted here previously).   

The November Man (2014)
Dir. Roger Donaldson

Pierce Brosnan Executive-Produced His Own Funeral
by Jay Maronde

About 2 weeks ago, I received an e-mail from my editor with the subject “November Man.” He implied that he would like a review of the movie (yes my turn around time is slow).  I Googled this film, and found that it was all new in theaters and starred Pierce Brosnan (one of my favorite Bonds) as a spy. Not wanting to know another thing I went to the theater the next Tuesday and the best thing I can say about this film is that I’m so glad I waited till $5 movie night.
                Let me start with Pierce Brosnan, who, as executive producer, deserves at least his fair share of blame for this stunning atrocity. (I would like to note that I mean atrocity because this movie is very difficult to watch, and not in some sort campy cult following way either.) I will admit I love Pierce, I really do, I liked him a lot as a washed up drunk spy in The Matador, The Thomas Crown Affair was a tasteful remake, he was classic as Remington Steele, and one of the few actors lucky enough ever to portray James Bond.  However, it appears as though Pierce wasn’t satisfied with his current body of spy/action work and decided to executive produce his own funeral in the genre.
His hair still looks great, he doesn't seem winded or tired, but he’s not in his most prime physical shape. There’s at least one scene later on in the movie where it’s quite obvious that the director instructed him to hold his arm across his body as the best method for distracting one’s eye to the fact that apparently all the James Bond money has Pierce eating pretty good.  Brosnan isn't the only villain here though so let me spread the blame around.
                There must have been a really good harvest of medical marijuana in California during the period of time in which all creative meetings for this film took place. I’m not kidding or being hyperbolic in any way: thinking back on this film it truly seems as if a bunch of stoners sat around smoking some great weed and said:
                “Hey man let’s make another Pierce Brosnan spy movie.”
To wit a fellow stoned movie executive set down his bong and retorted:
“Awwww man he’s so old.”
And the first chimed back:
“So we’ll make him a retired spy!”
And the second said:
                “See man, we’re geniuses, this shit writes itself.”
Because that’s exactly what the writing is in the movie: Hollywood drug-fueled schlock. The story is extremely convoluted and requires the viewer to make such logical LEAPS that sitting there you feel like you are the CIA agent, investigating what the hell is going on in this movie.  The movie drags so bad the viewer knows what a dolphin feels like caught in a tuna net.  Before checking my watch I would have sworn it ran over an hour longer than it was. A major part of this dragging feeling is that no person a party to this film seemed to have any idea whether they were making a buddy picture, a spy movie, or some sort of variant of the Liam Neeson Taken film series—not the actors, not the directors, not the producers, not this critic.
                Let me get to some of the better parts of this film. I will give some credit to the director that while the film drags, using the magic of very good music and pretty good cinematography the viewer definitely finds themselves perpetually on the edge of their seat. The eye candy is good-to-better also: Olga Kurylenko (another James Bond connection) is, as always, stunning in her beauty and her acting is better than most women that beautiful. The male lead besides Brosnan—relative newcomer Luke Bracey, playing Brosnan’s protégé in the CIA—does a decent job of playing a young confused agent while providing eye candy. The action sequences are good-to-better, and at no point did I get that weird CGI magic feeling so common in modern action movies.  The problem with some of the action is quite the same as the rest of the movie: you feel like the whole situation has grown entirely convoluted for no reason, but as a fan of action films, I can agree that the sequences were well-filmed and convincing. 

I've seen much worse, but in truth, I’m really glad I went on $5 movie night. 

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