Pierce Brosnan's perfect hair barely budges in the breeze, he fixes his eyes in that narrowed, steely stare and you remember, yes, he was a pretty good James Bond.
But he's not Bond, not at 61. He's this fellow named Devereaux, and back in the day, when he showed up for an assignment it was like winter had hit. Everything was dead. That's why they called Devereaux "The November Man."
Here's a humorless, muddled, bloody and generally unpleasant thriller about an ex-agent sucked back into The Business because somebody needs his help. Or somebody knows something. Or some protege has gone stone cold killer.
That's one of the problems with this Roger "No Way Out" Donaldson film. It leaves us with no clear sense of who to root for, or what. Is the CIA out to get Devereaux and his lady friend? The Russians? Some rogue amalgam of the two?
About all we're sure of is that the body count -- built on bullets and sharp, bloody blades -- piles up, first scene to last.
Devereaux trained Mason, played by Luke Bracey of the last "G.I. Joe" movie. They're fellow agents, experts on "threat analysis" and how to put a bullet in that threat. Years later, Devereaux is summoned by the old boss (Bill Smitrovich) to fetch a woman out of Russia, an agent who has "a name." That name could be the downfall of Russia's next leader.
Things go haywire in fetching the woman and in the movie, as triggers are pulled too quickly and Devereaux shoots all manner of folks, with and without Slavic accents. Mason is after him. Spirited chases through Moscow, guns blazing and tires screeching, give one a whole new appreciation for the place.
Eventually, teacher and pupil and quarry (Olga Kurylenko) and CIA hunters (Will Patton, Caterina Scorsone) and a Russian pony-tailed ballerina-turned-assassin (Amila Terzimehic) all wind up in Belgrade, which apparently is where the money men and women decided was cheapest place to film "The November Man."
This late August cast-off is what one can easily spy as a "producers-on-the-make" movie. It has the obligatory strip-club scene, with lithe and willing nude dancers. It has a spirited, nude sex scene. And in every shot, indoors or out, we see the best-looking extras this side of "America's Next Top Model." Skinny, anonymous women sashay into the frame, making you wonder what promise was made when "I will put you in the movie" crossed someone's lips.
Those elements don't do anything for the plot, the action or anything else. But they have a leering "value" to some in the audience and, more likely in the production office.
Through it all, in between Kurylenko's sexy costume changes and the sometimes visits of Alexa, the unusually flexible killer (Terzimehic) and flat afterthought of a performance by Bracey, Brosnan keeps his cool and delivers his lines as an older if not over the hill James Bond-"type."
"You feel the need for a relationship," he growls, "get a dog."
But a few pithy lines, seriously stunt-doubled fights and the odd blast of blood don't give the story clarity or the characters a compelling reason for us to engage in their dilemma. That makes "November Man" another sad refugee of August, the dumping ground of movies that don't quite move anybody.
'The november man'
Rating: R (for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use)
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey, Bill Smitrovich, Will Patton, Caterina Scorsone
Director: Roger Donaldson
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes