Synopsis: “American businessman Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two young daughters arrive in Southeast Asia to begin a new life. As his company plans to improve the region’s water quality, the family quickly learns that they’re right in the middle of a political uprising. Armed rebels attack the hotel where they’re staying, ordered to kill any foreigners that they encounter. Amid utter chaos, Jack must find a way to save himself and his loved ones from the violence erupting all around them.” Read More
Originally packaged with a much more apt title (The Coup), the ambiguously-named No Escape is still the second surprise thriller of the summer (the first being the shockingly excellent The Gift). John Erick Dowdle, who delivered the monstrously underrated As Above/So Below last year, again proves his knack for preeminently nail-biting sequences with a 103-minute zombie feature that replaces said zombies with radicalized “Asians”. Whereas zombies lack motive, the bloodthirsty nature of the enemy in No Escape is their defining feature and makes for antagonists who are thinly drawn but hugely imposing. Moments of cliche are all but drown out by the overwhelming panic at the heart of the film, a film that manages to tap into the epicenter of terror – having your family hacked to pieces in front of your eyes. It is, in three words: intense as f*ck. Read More
It’s been a full dozen years since Pierce Brosnan and co. shamed the Bond franchise with Die Another Day – the 007 movie with an invisible car, “glacier surfing” and Halle Berry. Since 2002, his film career has all but gone undercover. He’s starred in a slew of little known independent films with his most well-known appearances likely being in Roman Polanski‘s excellent Ghost Writer, more recently in Edgar Wright‘s trilogy-capping The World’s End and in 2008, ugh, Mama Mia! I guess that’s what makes the Goldeneye-starrer’s reunion with a pistol all the more exciting and, ultimately, forgivable.
The November Man starts on fine spy fare footing with Brosnan, now more of a silver fox than ever, on an undercover mission to save some politician in some country. The scene both introduces us to Brosnan’s hard-shelled Peter Deveraux and battle green sidekick David Mason (a not-so-hot Luke Bracey) and establishes Deveraux as the no-frills man on a mission that we’d expect from this brand of no-stops thriller. You see, Deveraux’s so committed to the job that he impersonates the politician who’s life is on the line so THE ASSASSIN-TO-BE WILL SHOOT AT HIM, THUS IDENTIFYING HIMSELF. It’s a brilliant plan if you’re made of brass and bolts but, as Mason says, “The vest won’t stop a headshot.” In a movie that’s more about headshots than brains, we, like Deveraux, must too be willing to take that risk.
Yada, yada, something about checking your line of sight, Deveraux takes a fistful of asinine assassin bullets, and Mason fires against Deveraux’s direct command, taking a kid out with the trash that is the would-be assassin. Flash forward three years and Deveraux’s off the job now, a rogue seemingly working as a nine-to-five playboy.
Wasting no time at all, Deveraux receives a phone call from his old handler Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) informing him that he’s needed for one more assignment… off the books. Deveraux is to travel to Russia to obtain extremely sensitive material from a former mole that could put political kingpin and Arkady Federov (Bond alum Lazar Ristovski) in the pocket of American interests. In a matter of minutes, the pieces are in place and the bullets are let loose like dogs off a leash, leading to Deveraux’s fated meeting with Alice (another Bond alum, leading lady Olga Kurylenko), a social worker who knows more than she lets on.
Based on Bill Granger’s book “There Are No Spies”, The November Man gets the adaptation treatment from Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek who make a game of mimicking prior entries to the spy genre. Unfortunately, the joke is ultimately on them. And us. While their screenplay serves to get characters from one chase or gun battle to the next, there’s little to no nuance in character relationships, rendering all of the eventual reveals moot.
The only character who seems to make it out of Gajdusek and Finch’s unsavory writing web unscathed is Deveraux, a living, breathing reminder of how great Brosnan could be as Bond. But as Bourne paved the way for Daniel Craig‘s reinvented Bond, Brosnan’s new no-nonsense spy is inspired by the gray-paned realism of a post-911 world. He’s a much more chilly iteration of the lovable, pun-heavy spy he played in the past who even dips into a show of deplorable acts. A mid-movie scene that’s meant to showcase Deveraux impressing upon his could-have-been-protegee Mason the commitment required to excel at such a job is brutal and shocking, even if it doesn’t fit into the movie.
Here is a man who is willing to gauge the femoral artery of a bystander just to teach someone a lesson. That’s the movie I want to see. Had Roger Donald committed to making that movie, I believe Pierce Brosnan may be looking down the barrel at his own Taken franchise. As is, Relativity has already gone ahead and green lit a sequel before The November Man has even made it to theaters but there’s no one living who wouldn’t call that a Vegas gamble. Take into consideration the fact that (as of writing this) the film has a 14% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been advertised virtually nowhere and you have a obvious example of a studio putting the cart before the horse.
The question remains: will this be a success with audiences? All evidence points to a resounding meh but quite honestly, the meh-ness of The November Man might just prove the requisite semi-excitement that the late-August movie-going crowd needs. While it’s no Taken (nor is it Taken 2…), The November Man is probably as close to Tooken as we’ll ever see.