A badass dad movie

The November Man is a great dad movie a solid spy flick that’s much better than its middling genre pretentions would suggest. To be clear this isn’t a classic like The Third Man but the sort of action flick that feels overly complicated and fun going in and totally forgettable afterwards. It has everything your dad wants out of a thriller (he’s been working all week and just wants to go home and watch a tape). There are guns gadgets tumblers full of booze open-necked cotton shirts and khakis unattainable women and Pierce Brosnan. The November Man covers it all.

It’s also more gruesome than these oft-terrible Tom Clancy-styled thrillers usually are with a couple scenes in particular that might turn off viewers expecting milder fare. As in your dad might think it’s a little over the top: did he really need to get stabbed that many times? Once is enough.

Things get off to a nice bloody start with Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) leading a botched CIA hit somewhere in sunny Europe. Devereaux’s young protégé David (Luke Bracey starring in the upcoming Point Break remake — sacrilege!) ignores his order to stand down (“Don’t take the shot!”) killing a child in the process. We all have bad days at work but this one’s a doozy.

Skip ahead a couple of years with Devereaux retired and running a café and David leading a covert operation in Russia. Those pesky Russians always up to no good. Devereaux is super grizzled tough as leather proud to be unattached and enjoying retirement. He’s drawn out of retirement with an offer he can’t refuse helping his lover escape from Russia. She has a name and information that threatens — as is always the case in these Cold War-inspired yarns — to radically the future of Eastern Europe. (Intrigue involving a Russian president-elect and his ugly war criminal past is weaved throughout the flick.) Things are getting saucy.

Unfortunately Devereaux arrives in Russia and quickly finds he’s been double-crossed. His spy lover meets a spectacularly bloody end but not before she gives him the goods. Seems the CIA and some Balkan baddies have been concocting some seriously nefarious schemes. Armed with this new information Devereaux discovers he’s on the CIA hit list. To add insult to injury his former student David has been tasked with hunting him down. David might have youth on his side but Devereaux is like a rich cognac growing better with age. The man has mad skills. There’s further intrigue involving Alice (Olga Kurylenko Quantum of Solace) a Serbian refugee a bloodthirsty assassin and other assorted characters many who wind up stabbed and/or riddled with bullets.

The cast is uniformly okay but it’s really Brosnan’s show and he brings a solid workmanlike charm to his role as a weary assassin. It’s easy to miss how skilled Brosnan is (think of his wild performance in The Matador) when used effectively and he’s often terrifying here equal parts sentimental and sadistic. James Bond was never this mean. Nobody really struggles with moral qualms about anything in The November Man making it more of a hard-boiled noir than crafty nuanced spy story. It’s ruthless and often cruel admirable for taking no prisoners but becoming punishing and depressing in the process.

It isn’t clear what director Roger Donaldson (The Bank Job Dante’s Peak Species) wants to do with the flick however. It often looks like a windy undistinguished The Tailor of Panama clone littered with Vespas and cocktails various spies clipping one another off as they jaunt across Europe. It’s also erratic with Donaldson tossing the camera around like a grumpy toddler many scenes dizzily spinning around before they abruptly disappear. He brings the goods to the violence with gallons of arterial spray and thudding slow-motion combat.

Do your dad a favour and take him to The November Man — he’ll probably tell you like the last time he saw a movie that it’s the best one he’s ever seen. As an added bonus there’s even a hot sex scene to make you both uncomfortable.