If you’re a fan of the James Bond books – the original, early James Bond books. You know that he was a hard man. A cold character fully capable of shooting first and asking questions never. In the movies, that got lost early on.
But you may be reminded of it watching Pierce Brosnan in The November Man (Sat Thu Và Diep Vien). A new thriller with a secret agent stalking his prey. And being stalked – through Eastern Europe.
It is, in no way, a 007 film, and not just because it’s based on a completely unrelated book by Bill Granger. There are no gadgets here, no gratuitous lovelies and certainly no quips.
But it gives you an idea of what Bond could have been – and where Brosnan might have enjoyed taking him, if he hadn’t been unceremoniously decommissioned in favor of Daniel Craig.
Pierce Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a CIA man who retired after a mission went wrong. Now, his old boss is asking him to come back, just one more time, to help a trusted asset get out of Moscow before the Russians find out what she’s found out – and silence her.
But this mission doesn’t go quite as planned either – and soon Devereaux is chasing, or being chased, by ever-shifting gangs of Russian and Americans, while a mysterious hired assassin pursues her own agenda.
Like a lot of modern spy thrillers (phim hanh dong dac vu CIA). The plot is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a whole lot of what-the-hell?
But clearly it’s the character here who appeals to Brosnan (who also produced). A ruthless agent who isn’t above hurting anyone (including an innocent woman). If it gets him what he wants.
It’s as if Brosnan is doing penance for making movies that suggested spies were “fun” in the first place.
He’s got help here from Roger Donaldson, who directed the gritty little “The Bank Job” a while back, as well as the junkily entertaining “Species.” The car chases are taut and the hand-to-hand combat, although Hollywood-improbable (people take steel pipes to the head, and walk away) is well-edited.
What the film could really use, though – besides a clarified plot – is a bit more oomph in the casting. The mild Olga Kurylenko (a veteran of the Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”). And the forgettable Will Patton are the biggest costars we get; the rest of the roles are filled with actors whose names you’ll never need to learn.
That kind of economy seems like a definite mistake; fit as he still is at 61, Brosnan can’t carry the entire movie on his shoulders. A familiar face or two – let alone a few more veteran actors – might have helped turn the heat up on a few scenes.
But then, some like it cold. And that seems to be Brosnan’s aim here – showing us someone who enjoys his license to kill so much. He’s forgotten some of his reason to live.