Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The November Man (Part 1)

James Bond is back, and this time he's brought an R-rating!”

I think it's safe to say Olga Kurylenko is the Patron Saint of this blog. Some of my earliest reviews were of her video game based films Hitman and Max Payne, where she captured the spirit of what A Ghoul Versus... is all about with jilted line delivery and general vacuousness in regards to acting. She was dramatically improved in Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion, where she turned in a pretty good performance, but was right back to her bag of tricks in this year's DELIGHTFUL atrocity that was Vampire Academy.

This leads us to her latest film, the November Man. I know next to nothing about this film, as it was in and out of theaters pretty quick because Pierce Brosnan quite isn't the box office draw he used to be. Despite this short window, it did turn a profit, so much in fact that a sequel is already being planned. I saw a few trailers for this, it looked like James Bond only not quite. This film is based off the novels of the same name, and in true Hollywood fashion it's based off the SEVENTH book of the series. Chronology, what's that?

The movie is directed by Roger Donaldson, who has a somewhat respectable and varied filmography with films such as No Way Out, Cocktail, Species, and Dante's Peak. The movie was co-written by Karl Gajdusek, who was also the writer of Oblivion so hopefully he can continue his streak of making Kurylenko sound intelligent when she opens her mouth. Interesting bit of trivia here, the other writer of this movie is Michael Finch, who is currently writing the reboot to HITMAN. Good God, it's Six Degrees Of Olga up in this piece! And with that, it's time to see is Pierce Brosnan still has the suave and sophisticated spy game with A Ghoul Versus The November Man!

A caption tells us it's Montenegro 2008 as we see Pierce Brosnan bitching out Chris Hemsworth for getting too friendly with one of the cute waitresses at a cafe. No wait, that's Liam? No? Oh, it's ANOTHER Australian lookalike named Luke Bracey. I'm not familiar with him, but looking at his filmography he played the Cobra Commander in the second G.I. Joe movie so that means we'll be seeing him again soon. I also see he's playing Johnny Utah in a Point Break remake, because Hollywood won't rest until they've completely ruined the memory of Patrick Swayze. Consider this a little preview of when I do an Original Vs. Remake of Red Dawn!

The two head into a car and begin arming themselves, and let's just pause a moment while I turn the subtitles on for this thing. Brosnan's accent here is THICK, to say the least. The two are CIA agents Peter Devereaux and David Mason, here in Montenegro to protect the American ambassador who is the target in an assassination attempt. Oh... joy. Another assassination plot RIGHT after Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, eh? With David sitting in a tower with a sniper rifle to provide support, Peter enters a public square for a meeting dressed as the ambassador. Peter spots a man in a blue suit running towards him, but orders David not to shoot because there's a young boy in the line of fire. David doesn't listen and kills the assassin, with the very unfortunately side effect of also killing the boy. Peter is understandably PISSED.

We jump to five years later, where Peter has now retired to live in Switzerland. His quiet life is quickly interrupted by the appearance of his former boss, Director John Hanley, who wants him to do ONE LAST JOB. Hanley is played by the eternally excellent Bill Smitrovich, an actor who's been in the game for over thirty years and is one of those “Hey, It's THAT Guy!” actors. Personally, he'll always be Bob Bletcher from the TV show Millennium, a show I will NEVER shut up about because it was gone way too soon dammit! Hanley lays out the plot for us, Arkady Federov, the next president of Russia, is killing everyone from his shadowy past that might complicate his future. Several of these have been undercover CIA contacts, as well as Peter's old friends. There is an undercover agent named Natalia Ulanova that wants to be extracted before she's next, with the added bonus that she has some SERIOUS intel on Federov that'll change everything.

Hanley wants Peter to do the extraction, taking her from Moscow to safety in Helsinki. Peter agrees because it appears he has old feelings for Natalia, and also because it wouldn't be much a movie if he did. Natalia gets the news the operation is on, taking time to break into Federov's safe and take pictures of some photographs he keeps in there. She quickly leaves the building, although does a poor job of covering her tracks as Federov notices his safe is open and puts two and two together. The CIA tracks her as she drives away via the assistance of a remote drone, which we see is being controlled by David. Wow, he got to keep his job after Montenegro? Maybe the CIA has a “kill three kids and you're out” policy, so he only got a strike for that.

With only five minutes to go before she hits the safe zone, the movie decides things are going to smoothly and throws several black SUVs at her. They quickly box her in and things look bad until Peter shows up to shoot everyone dead. Yeah, nameless foreign goon in a Pierce Brosnan film? I DO NOT like your chances. Natalia hops into Peter's car and they head towards the extraction point. She is surprised to see him, even though Hanley told Pierce she requested him personally for the mission. Since that went too well, we get the next monkey wrench: Hanley's boss Perry Weinstein pops up on a video screen to take over the operation, as he's VERY interested in the intel Natalie has gathered. He orders David's team to take over the extraction, Hanley's recruitment of Peter having been a secret to everyone.

Peter asks Natalia what she risked her life for, learning it's the name “Mira Filipova”. He calls Hanley to tell him this, his friend warning him about David. Too late though because David crosses another entry off his Asshole Bucket List as he snipes Natalia through the windshield, Peter bringing the car to a halt. He must have shot her with a Kamino saberdart though, because she has JUST enough time to give Peter the cell phone she took the incriminating photos with before dying. Where do you even BUY plot convenient bullets? Devastated, Peter cradles her head in his arms before looking up at the building was standing on, BLOODY FUCKING VENGEANCE on his face. In case you are wondering, Brosnan most definitely still has “it”.

David and his team pack up and leave in an unmarked van, Peter casually headshotting the driver as he pulls out of the parking garage. He shoots the other two who rush out the side door, but not David who had the foresight to go out the other side. They draw their guns for a standoff, but then quickly lower them as they're shocked to see each other. Peter realizes he's fucked up bad and walks away, David letting him go. Peter hails a cab to go to the airport, looking through Natalia's phone and finding the photos were of a pretty young woman.

Hanley looks up Mira, but before he can get very far armed men burst into his office and tase him into unconsciousness. Not enough going on for your liking? Next we go to the Belgrade Center for Refuges, where American investigative journalist Edgar Simpson meets with a social worker there named Alice Fournier. Alice is Olga Kurylenko's character, but we don't get to learn anything about her because the film cuts away for ANOTHER introduction. This one is Federov's personal assassin Alexa arriving in the city, and does she look like she means BUSINESS as she's packing more guns than the Punisher.

We return to the embassy, where Weinstein has showed up to personally conduct David's debriefing. He orders him to kill Peter before Peter can come after them for killing Natalia, David accepting the assignment. Alexa heads to visit one of her contacts for information on Mira, learning she was put in the care of Alice. It does look like Alice's dance card is going to be pretty full today, because Peter also gets this same information when he sneaks into Hanley's office and knocks out the tech crew scouring the place after the abduction. He calls into the embassy to have them track Alice's cell phone, impersonating one of the agents. David figures this out pretty quickly, so pretty much everyone in the movie is now headed to the diner where Alice is meeting Edgar for lunch.

Peter gets there first, sprinting Alice out the back of the building before Alexa can stab her. David and his team show up on motorcycles, and we have ourselves a frantic chase scene. Peter knocks one of the men off his cycle by BRUTALLY cracking him with a metal canister in an amazing looking shot. Peter and Alice RUN THROUGH THE BACK OF A CROWDED KITCHEN, and this movie now has the full Ghoul Seal of Approval! They lose the CIA agents in a marketplace, Peter taking the time to call David on his cell to playfully taunt them. These guys have a VERY good chemistry, this movie is incredibly fun so far.

After jacking a car to drive away, Peter asks Alice about Mira. Alice says she hasn't seen her in over three years, Peter warning her that if Mira can't be found they'll come after her instead. She takes Peter back to her office so he can see her files on Mira, but he doesn't find anything helping. He then notices a wanted poster pinned to the wall of a local pimp that he recognizes as Simi Denisov, a man who served as Federov's right hand man during his days as a twisted general in the army. They go to see Denisov at his base of operations, which is of course a strip bar. How come these guys never hole up at a Starbucks or something?

Peter tries to get information out of Denisov by telling him he's next on Federov's hit list, wondering why the future president is trying to bury all the skeletons in his closet. We learn Federov initiated the war with Chechnya by blowing up a building of Russian soldiers, with the bombshell being the CIA helped him set it all up. Mira, who was a “working girl” in Federov's employ at the time was a witness to all this and her testimony can bring him down. I'm hoping she has some kind of proof of this, otherwise it's a bit silly to think Federov couldn't easily discredit a hooker if this became public.

After this the film begins to drag badly, as we get about fifty scenes of all that characters doing really unimportant stuff. We see Alexa tailing Edgar, Hanley getting interrogated by a CIA agent named Celia, Peter and Alice breaking into an apartment to mooch food, and David taking his hot neighbour Sarah to a bar and banging her. I don't care about ANY of this, I just want to see Brosnan whooping ass. Things get back on track when Peter gives Alice a wad of money and a phone, telling her to hide somewhere safe. He sneaks into David's apartment and holds a knife to Sarah's throat, asking David to choose between saving her or killing him.

This is based off the subplot that opened the film, with Peter trying to teach him you can't care about people in this business. Despite everything that's happened, Peter still cares about David and wants to see if there's anything redeemable left in him. Peter takes the knife and slashes Sarah's femoral artery, running out while David calls an ambulance to save her. This was flat out DISTURBING, now I really want to see Brosnan play a psychotic villain. Hell, I want to see Brosnan playing ANYONE more than he has been. Since he wasn't chosen to continue playing James Bond, he really hasn't done anything major outside of Mamma Mia and the Ghost Writer. This movie is showing Brosnan is still undeniably a major cinematic presence that can easily carry a film, get with the program Hollywood and start casting him more!

Click here for Part 2!