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The November Man: Here comes bland, James Bland

The November Man

1.5 stars (out of four)

Rated: 14A

Ex-007 actor Pierce Brosnan always thought he had at least one more James Bond movie in him. On paper, the spy thriller The November Man looks like it might be at least a reasonable facsimile.

It’s not by a long shot, although it’s not for want of trying. In fact, this looks to be a case of trying too hard.

With former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko by his side and a script that plays like a Google Translate synthesis of every 007 trope, Brosnan charges once more unto the secret agent breach as if Daniel Craig never happened.

But it ain’t the same, mainly because the script’s inane. We never know from one minute to the next what Brosnan’s ex-CIA guy Peter Devereaux is up to, or what’s motivating him. Is it duty, love, vengeance, sadism, masochism or all of the above?

This info vacuum builds tedium rather than suspense, a deficit no amount of car chases or explosives can compensate for. Veteran director Roger Donaldson directs with urgency but not flair, working a screenplay by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek that adapts There Are No Spies, a book in Bill Granger’s espionage series about the Devereaux character.

It might as well have been from multiple books; it certainly feels that way.

When we first meet Devereaux in 2008 in Montenegro, he’s trying to stop a political assassination while acting as mentor to skilled but sloppy rookie agent David Mason (Luke Bracey). Devereaux calls the kid “a blunt instrument” — and where have we heard that line before?

One bungled gig later, the clock jumps to current time and we see Devereaux enjoying retirement in Switzerland, no longer concerned about being shaken or stirred.

That is until he’s pulled back into the CIA fold and sent to Commieland for the proverbial one last job, aimed at extracting a double agent from the clutches of a Russian war criminal turned presidential aspirant (Lazar Ristovski), who also seems awfully darn familiar in a front-page kinda way.

Long dull story short, nothing goes as planned, just as before. But now Devereaux finds himself being hunted by former protégé Mason, sharper than before but still working out major surrogate daddyo issues, and he’s not the only one seeking Devereaux’s leathery hide. Seems the makers of this film saw all of the Jason Bourne series, too.

Even Kurylenko is confused by what Brosnan’s character is up to.

“Do all your friends try to kill you?” she says.

“Eventually,” Brosnan replies.

At least we find out why he’s called “The November Man,” way into the picture. It’s not worth the wait.

Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.

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