What? Didn’t hear about this one? Not many did. This is the result of studios dumping films they don’t anticipate will be successful at the end of August. It’s why Guardians of the Galaxy continues to do so well, it has no competition. It also helps that it is good. Schools are coming back into session (or already are…Arizona is weird), final family vacations, etc all contribute to lower box office in this time. The weekend before labor day is particularly notorious for well – studio garbage.
Let’s look at last year this time: One Direction: This is Us, Instructions Not Include, and Getaway. The prior week had The Worlds End and You’re Next, both of which barely eeked into the top 10 on labor day weekend. The total for the top 10 last year was only ~$26 million. That – to Hollywood – isn’t good and not worth investing in. This year doesn’t look to be shaping up much better with The November Man, As Above So Below being the only two new openings in wide release with Ghostbusters (30th anniversary) coming back to theatres. I love my Ghostbusters, you should too. It will be sad, however, if it dominates the weekend – which it might!
So that bit of info understood – should you spend money on November Man this weekend?
I have to admit, the trailers failed this one. I thought I was getting a poor version of the Mechanic (either version, but Bronson/Jan Michael Vincent’s is better). At best it seemed to be a watered down version of Bourne or Spy Game. I’d like to say I was pleasantly disappointed.
The movie is based on the November Man book series by Bill Granger, specifically book 7 “There Are No Spies”. Based on a quick read of the synopsis the words based on are used liberally here. Adapting the novel was Michael Finch (Predators, Agent 47) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion and the quickly cancelled Last Resort series). They don’t have a lot of work under their belt and quite honestly it shows. The plot is kind of a muddy mess. It feels like they didn’t know which story elements they wanted to use and took it to a 5 year old to cut and paste as a kindergarten project. This isn’t to say what they wrote was bad, but that when watching it as a whole it is a bit of a sloppy mess.
The movie gives us a familiar story of an over the hill spy (Pierce Brosnan) retired from the game, but pulled back in for one final mission by his old boss. In a world of Spy vs Spy he must outwit his own protege (Luke Bracey) and save a high value target (Olga Kurylenko) who is the key to information that is useful to all sides in this.
Not original I know. It actually feels very cold war, for those that remember it, even if it is referencing more modern conflicts such as the Chechen-Russian war. They don’t ever quite bring me to care if anyone lives or dies. Succeeds or fails. So for a spy thriller they failed in the tension department.
That might fall on director Roger Donaldson, who had previously tried his hand at spies in 2003’s The Recruit (which bombed). He is also familiar with Brosnan from their work on Dante’s Peak in 97 – which also failed. He does have an appropriate bit of flair so while the story falls flat and fails to bring me to care; I find myself enjoying it and the shots he picked. Even the performances he got from his actors, well most of them.
Brosnan does well as Devereaux, our retired spy. He has the certain ennui required for it. He also has the damage and baggage. A few actors could have done it, but I think perhaps a Bond actor does it better than most. Even his action beats are good and the fatigue coming out of them. Relative new comer Luke Bracey (GI Joe: Retaliation, The Best of Me) plays the protege. He’s just ok. I think the role doesn’t give him a lot to work with and he mostly stares his way through the film. There might be something there, but it did not show up here. It’s worth noting he is currently slated to be the new Keanu in the Point Break remake.
The female leads in the film are actually noteworthy. Olga Kurlyenko, whom I adore, from Oblivion and Centurion plays the prize. She isn’t completely helpless though! She has fire in her. She’s a survivor and they let it show. There is also a female assassin in the film Amila Terzimehic who has both good and bad going for her. The good is she is an intelligent, kick butt assassin who uses her brain as things play out. The bad is they don’t use her nearly enough in the film, though based on her IMDB page material was cut that had her in it.
From a technical standpoint, the movie doesn’t do much particularly new but also doesn’t fall to the Greengrass sins of shaky cam. I found myself enjoying the action beats when they occured and the overall pacing was pretty good. The movie doesn’t feel like it’s two hour running time.
So at the end of the night, I enjoyed this movie. It isn’t great. It isn’t new or original. It exists quietly in the spy thriller genre and won’t make any waves and has no real weight to it. It just is.
Yet, I still enjoyed it. I still smiled a few times and looked over to the friend I was watching it with who was enjoying it as well.
So if you have nothing better to do this weekend and want a bit of Spy vs Spy action – give this a shot. Otherwise, go see Ghostbusters (which I am going to do a review of as well)!
This is a three review weekend folks….so one down, two to come.