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Review – A Walk Among The Tombstones

With Liam Neeson, Maurice Compte, Patrick McDade, Luciano Acuna Jr, and Hans Marrero; Written and directed by Scott Frank; Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity; 113 minutes.

For those who have lost countless rainy afternoons compulsively turning the yellowed pages of vaguely disreputable paperback detective novels, writer-director Scott Frank’s A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES will feel like a gift. This is one unabashedly retro hunk of hard-boiled pulp, played straight, with no postmodern chaser. You won’t find any winks or Sin City posturing here, as Frank demonstrates a reverence for time-honored tropes and archetypes. They’re sunk into the storytelling, so bone-deep that I suppose that it and the film could be dismissed by some as a mere genre exercise. But make no mistake–this is a genre exercise with uncommon craftsmanship and a heavy heart.

Liam Neeson stars as Matthew Scudder, a former New York cop working as an unlicensed private investigator these days, maintaining a rigorous schedule of AA meetings. The battered-but-not-broken hero of some seventeen books by the great Lawrence Block, Scudder’s made it to the big screen just once before, played by Jeff Bridges in Hal Ashby and Oliver Stone’s “Eight Million Ways To Die,” a sleazy 1986 spectacle that while never released on DVD, still looms large in the late night cable memories of a certain generation of dudes for whom Rosanna Arquette helped kickstart puberty.

“A Walk Among The Tombstones” is a much more somber affair, beginning with a shootout that is startling in its suddenness and offhand brutality, segueing into one of the more unsettling opening credits sequences in recent memory. I’m as big a fan as anyone of Liam Neeson’s late-career resurgence in junk food B-movie programmers, but from the outset this film announces itself as something else: it takes violence seriously.

It is the fall of 1999 in New York’s run-down, garbage strewn outer boroughs, where against his better judgment, Scudder finds himself on the trail of two twisted sadists kidnapping the spouses of mid-level drug traffickers for quick cash ransoms. Given the nature of their ill-gotten gains, the marks would rather not go to the authorities, while the abductors have a bad habit of returning their hostages in garbage bags.

So yes, on one level this is another film in which Liam Neeson has “a certain set of skills,” but part of what makes “A Walk Among The Tombstones” so interesting is how hard he’s trying not to have to use them. It’s a patient, slow-burner of a movie, engrossing us in the all-but-forgotten pleasures of simple shoe leather detective work. (In his long screenwriting career adapting everybody from Elmore Leonard to Philip K. Dick, Frank has mastered the nuts and bolts of a well-told yarn.) Fans of Liam’s recent Charles Bronson phase might be taken aback at how often he chooses to defuse conflicts instead of busting heads.

In another typically marvelous performance, Neeson towers over his co-stars, carrying himself with the matter-of-fact vigilance of a guy who has seen it all and thus knows better than anybody else just how much worse things are gonna get. Scudder’s sobriety figures prominently both plot-wise and in the subtext: he’s working it one day at a time, always acutely aware that a single slip could send him sliding right back into the abyss. Frank bumped Block’s 1992 novel up by seven years, so everyone’s babbling on about Y2K paranoia while freighted shots of the New York skyline forebode greater horrors to come. “People are afraid of all the wrong things,” says one of the film’s sickos, perhaps putting too fine a point on it.

Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. shoots the city as a gorgeous ruin, favoring sparse wide shots with heavy negative space bearing down on these isolated characters. There’s a doomy grandiosity befitting the title, and when violence inevitably occurs it is something not to be cheered, but mourned. Frank refuses to sensationalize the lurid material, even cross-cutting the finale with one of Scudder’s AA meetings–less interested in the monstrousness than in the heavy cost that fighting monsters weighs on men’s souls. Throughout the film, I was reminded of Raymond Chandler’s famous essay, “The Simple Art Of Murder,” in which he wrote:

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham and a contempt for pettiness.”

If that’s your kind of thing, “A Walk Among The Tombstones” is your kind of movie.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Over the past fifteen years Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews and essays have appeared in Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, The House Next Door, Time Out New York, EntertainmentTell, Philadelphia City Paper and He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Review – Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?

With Kristoffer Polaha, Laura Regan, Peter Mackenzie, Greg Germann, and Larry Cedar; Written by James Manera, Harmon Kaslow, and John Aglialoro; Directed by James Manera; Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sexuality; 98 minutes.

 “The left hopes no one goes to the theater this weekend. They don’t want their own collectivist mentality compared with Rand’s belief in the individual. They do not want her integrity of thought to reach the sunlight. The result of their philosophy is the message of Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? and it shows quite clearly that force ‘for the good of all’ is a hell on earth for mankind.” –Producer John Agliaro

Heh. These guys crack me up.

Millionaire CEO and poker champ Agliaro’s 20-year struggle to bring Ayn Rand’s doorstop-sized Objectivist Bible to the big screen came to an unceremonious end this past weekend, with the side-splitting third and final installment raking in a gasp-inducing $1,906 per theatre. (Breaking it down for the current average ticket price of $8.33, with most cinemas running a film anywhere between 12 and 15 times over a 3-day period, this works out to a charitable estimate of fewer than 20 patrons attending any given show.) So it would seem that the Free Market has spoken?

For the blessedly uninitiated, Rand’s 1,168-page novel is the favorite book of many young sociopaths you meet in business schools. Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged posits a hysterically overwrought nightmare dystopia in which government regulation has crippled the economy. Shadowy politicians conspire with corrupt union leaders to bleed corporations of their precious profits, with “parasites,” “looters,” and “moochers” living off the hard-earned wealth of the noble 1%. In this time of crisis, America’s captains of industry have had it up to here with poisonous concepts like “charity” and “altruism.” Inspired by a mysterious figure named John Galt, they sabotage their companies, trashing the country’s infrastructure before disappearing altogether. Basically, it’s all about a bunch of rich crybabies who don’t want to share their toys so they break them and go home.

My dear friend, the late, great libertarian talk show host David Brudnoy used to describe Rand as “an unfortunate phase most people outgrow.” But Agliaro certainly hasn’t, throwing mountains of bad money after good with his increasingly unprofitable (and increasingly hilarious) adaptations of Little Objectivist Aynnie’s magnum opus. Burning with messianic zeal, the movies have gone through three directors and three sets of actors on the long road to this riotous finale.

The surreal awfulness of these Atlas Shrugged films is difficult to convey as, beholden to Rand’s tale, they remain stuck in a time warp where rail travel and the steel industry represent the heights of American innovation. People don’t interact so much as they wander around cheap soap opera sets reciting long-winded position papers at one another, with the revolving-door cast adding another layer of bizarre dissonance. From movie to movie, everybody is a drastically different age with often wildly opposing interpretations of their characters. Entire storylines are rushed through by an extremely busy narrator, while black-and-white stills representing scenes nobody had the time or money to film shuffle across the screen.

When we last saw Dagny Taggart – queen of the railroad business played by Taylor Schilling and Samantha Mathis in the first two films, respectively – she’d tracked down the elusive Galt and his posse of vanished CEOs to a secret Rocky Mountain enclave, where a high-tech laser-beam force field crashed her plane in a special effect the threadbare production could scarcely afford. Now played by Laura Regan, Dagny awakens in the rubble to find herself rescued by John Galt (Kristoffer Polaha), a hunky fellow who looks like he’s stepped out of a Sears catalog. He brings her to Atlantis, a capitalist utopian commune where the country’s best and brightest have escaped to begin civilization anew, at long last unburdened by government regulations and poor people. “No man here may provide unearned sustenance for another,” Galt explains. So like a good little woman, Dagny offers to do his cooking and cleaning in exchange for room and board, although the lascivious glint in her eyes suggests another way Dagny might have been able to earn her keep.

It’s a Free Market paradise of mismatched scenic stock footage and overqualified character actors like Mad Men’s Duck Phillips and Stephen Tobolowsky. (I can only hope the latter got a great story for his podcast out of this fly-by-night shoot.) Will Dagny return to New York to save her family business and try to protect the country from her idiot brother (Greg Germann, the poor man’s William Fichtner)–here seen plotting with the mealy-mouthed President to let Minnesota starve “for the sake of the greater good”? And when will we finally get to the 56-page Galt monologue held so dear for these past 60 years by the avid cult of Randians?

Algiaro claims he rushed the film into theatres this week to influence the midterm elections, a rather superheroic overestimation of this sorry saga’s potential impact. Indeed, if the picture is to be remembered, it will be in the Worst Movie Sex Scenes Hall Of Fame. Music swells as Dagny clears off a desk in the railyard office, with Galt taking her in a gloriously discontinuous dissolve-heavy montage of belts, bras and slow-motion sighs, climaxing in a train being guided through a dark tunnel, of course.

My heavens, this is terrible–but in ways it is strangely comforting. Though I’ve been accused of masochism by my friends, I like to seek out these right-wing crusade movies–opening without press screenings, often in barely advertised engagements at suburban shopping-mall cinemas to sparse crowds of Fox News enthusiasts–not just because I enjoy giggling at starfucky cameos by Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist. (Guys, Ron Paul is in this movie!) Mostly, I go because the rank incompetence of so many quote-unquote conservative pictures makes their toxic ideologies a good deal less frightening.

The final, most beautiful irony is that Atlas Shrugged’s previous two installments proved so financially calamitous, Aligaro and his co-producers financed this one with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s hard not to wonder what Ayn Rand would’ve thought about her precious bootstrap self-sufficiency manifesto being partially funded by begging for handouts.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 0 out of 5.Over the past fifteen years Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews and essays have appeared in Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, The House Next Door, Time Out New York, EntertainmentTell, Philadelphia City Paper and He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

[This review comes to us via Movie Mezzanine, and is reprinted with permission.]

Review – This Is Where I Leave You

With Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll. Written by Jonathan Tropper. Directed by Shawn Levy. Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use. 103 minutes.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is a dysfunctional family comedy/drama that turns out to have a heart. It begins with the death of the Altman family patriarch, followed by the announcement by his widow Hilary (Jane Fonda) that his dying wish was that she and his four adult children sit shiva for him. Shiva is the Jewish mourning ritual in which the mourners sit at home and are tended to and comforted by friends and family.

What’s unusual about them observing this religious ritual is that the late Altman was an atheist and Hilary isn’t Jewish. The children, however, seem to have been raised as Jews and reluctantly comply with their late father’s wishes. Naturally, they are all a mess. Judd (Jason Bateman) has just discovered his wife (Rose Byrne) in bed with his boss (Dax Shepard). Wendy (Tina Fey) has two children and a husband who can’t neglect business even at the funeral. Paul (Corey Stoll) runs the family business and has been struggling with his wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn) to reproduce. Phillip (Adam Driver) is the baby and ne’er-do-well who is dating his wealthy–and much older–therapist Tracy (Connie Britton).

In many ways, we’ve seen this story many times before: dysfunctional siblings and parents forced by circumstances to be together and deal with their problems and each other. However, director Shawn Levy and writer Jonathan Tropper (adapting his own novel) figured out that this only works if we actually care about the characters. As the story progresses, we keep seeing sides of them that surprise us and demonstrate that humans are quirky beings. A character who seems like a jerk shows himself to be self-aware. Another who appears empathetic suddenly turns insensitive.

Judd, who is our anchor in these proceedings, finds that life can get more complicated than he imagined after a lifetime of avoiding risks.  The lessons learned–the whole point of these kinds of stories–don’t come easily or neatly. While sometimes going for the cheap laugh (Wendy’s little boy is being potty trained and loves to show off his latest accomplishment) the movie manages to take a mature and knowing look at just messy life can be.

In an ensemble cast this large it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Levy manages to give each of the main characters their due. Jane Fonda gets her best big screen role in decades as the mother who has become a best-selling author writing about the foibles of her children, while Bateman gives a nuanced performance not often in evidence in his film work. Indeed, there’s nary a wrong move among the cast with Fey, Stoll, Shepard, Hahn, and Britton each shining in bigger or smaller roles. Even Ben Schwartz proves multifaceted as the young rabbi who grew up with the Altman kids and bears an unfortunate nickname.

By the time we get to the final revelations and resolutions we have come to know and sympathize with these characters. We’re hoping things will turn out okay for them, but while things have changed for them all during the week-long mourning period, there’s no guarantee that they are able to move forward. Some are, and some aren’t, and the subtlety and sophistication of wrapping up the story without neat resolutions is yet another thing that sets this apart from others in this dysfunctional genre.

“This is Where I Leave You” turns out to be a funny and sometimes moving tale of a mother and her grown brood reassessing their relationships and finding its never too late to reconnect.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


Review – The Cold Lands

With Lili Taylor, Silas Yelich, Peter Scanavino, John Ventimiglia, and Maggie Low; Written and directed by Tom Gilroy; Not rated (appropriate for ages 17 and older); 100 minutes

There are some films that are worth viewing for their cinematic beauty as much as for their acting and storyline. Some of the Academy Award-winning beauties that come to mind are “Apocalypse Now,” “Out Of Africa,” “The Mission,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Life Of Pi,” and most recently, “Gravity.” There are other films in which the entire story could be told through the cinematography alone, such as “The Passion Of The Christ,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Platoon,” “Ran,” and “Raging Bull.” These critically-acclaimed award winners and nominees do well enough visually that just about anyone could get the general storyline without a word of spoken dialogue.

THE COLD LANDS has stunning cinematography by Wyatt Garfield (“Beasts Of The Southern Wild”), a talented cast of actors (Lili Taylor, Silas Yelich, Peter Scanavino, John Ventimiglia) and a capable director (Tom Gilroy). The director shot his sophomore effort in his home town by the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York. The care that was taken to illuminate the beauty of the wooded settings is very Walden-esque. The film earns merit for the artistic expression of Gilroy, so as a piece of visual art, “The Cold Lands” is a success.

As far as conventional filmmaking goes, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Sure, one could argue that the hook of this thing is the quiet suspense that constantly puts on edge the dynamic of the characters’ relationships. But the storyline strings you along with few high points before it eventually fizzles to an unsatisfying ending.

The term “spoiler alert” would be appropriate here, if there were any big surprises to spoil. Lili Taylor is a self-sufficient single mom who dies very close after the beginning of this film because in her attempt to raise her young teen boy and teach him the ways of a free spirit, she neglects to take proper care of her serious ailment. She apparently believes that she is providing her son Atticus with sufficient survival skills to take care of himself after she is gone because she hasn’t made any kind of arrangement for guardianship or even prepared him for the inevitable demise when it is hinted that she knows what is coming. When a concerned neighbor comes looking for the boy to take care of him, the frightened kid takes off and hides in the woods, which is pretty understandable. Then he meets up with a kindred neo-hippie named Carter who makes jewelry and smokes a lot of pot.

The story turns into the tale of two misfit buddies. One lives in his car, selling his trinkets from the trunk at hippy craft festivals. The other is an orphan trying to live free of society and a legal guardian who could shelter and take care of him properly. Leaving a lot to the imagination at the end, this film had me wondering if this disheveled big brother figure who can barely take care of himself, would continue to keep Atticus under his broken wing. Or would he do the right thing and surrender the unfortunate boy to the authorities?

While I’m trying to figure it out, I’ll give this…

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Dana C. Kabel is the author of several short stories, appearing in Otto Penzler’s Kwik Krimes, Out of the Gutter Magazine, Shotgun Honey and several others. He currently resides in New Jersey.

Review – Dolphin Tale 2

With Nathan Gamble, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson. Written and directed by Charles Martin Smith. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements. 107 minutes.

Okay, DOLPHIN TALE 2 is not a very good film. In fact, it’s downright dull. However, we need to put it in context. It’s a safe-for-all-ages film (one of the “supporting” dolphins dies: parents of young ones take heed) which has enough interesting adult actors in the cast to keep parents awake. It’s not enough to redeem the film, but those seeking big-screen entertainment which the whole family can watch could do worse.

That is, of course, faint praise. The sequel to the 2011 film about Winter, the injured dolphin who gets a prosthetic tail and is befriended by Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble), it is inspired by a real life story. As the old saw has it, God writes lousy theater.

The government requires dolphins kept in captivity must be kept in pairs (for reasons never fully explained) and Winter has been “friends” with Panama. However Panama is very old–for a dolphin–and when the inevitable happens, Winter goes into a funk. This is a problem for Sawyer, a high school student with a gift for aquatic biology. In fact, a special Boston University program for college students invites one high school for a three-month project and they’ve selected Sawyer. Can he go at a time when Winter is feeling so abandoned?

Adults in the audience can easily anticipate where this is going, but younger viewers will be caught up in the story. An injured dolphin is brought to the facility where Winter lives. Might she be Winter’s new friend? Or are there reasons that Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) is refusing to pair them? In the film’s most sophisticated subplot, Clay’s daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), furious at her father’s decisions, demands to be treated as a mature teenager with some sophisticated understanding of what’s at stake, and not as a child who can be dismissed. It would be nice to report this becomes a major theme of the film but, alas, it’s a minor subplot.

The film needs these subplots because the main storyline is so dull and predictable. Another one involves a cantankerous seagull concerned with the welfare of an injured sea turtle. Ultimately, this goes nowhere, but it does serve as a useful distraction. Instead, we look to the seasoned adult cast for some entertainment value, although that largely turns out to be a losing battle. Morgan Freeman returns as the cantankerous creator of Winter’s prosthetic. Ashley Judd is Nelson’s mom. Kris Kristofferson is Clay’s father. None of them save the film, but neither do they do anything to make it worse. They play their underwritten parts to the best of their abilities, and we’re glad they’re there.

Charles Martin Smith (who appears as the government agent threatening to remove Winter from the facility) wrote and directed. Clearly his priority was making a film safe for families to watch and in that he succeeded. Unfortunately,that’s all that “Dolphin Tale 2” is–a film safe for families. That’s no small achievement, but it’s nothing to write home about either. If you don’t have youngsters in tow, there’s no reason to waste any time with this.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


Review – As Above So Below

With Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert. Written by Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle. Directed by John Erick Dowdle. Rated R for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout. 93 minutes.

Have you ever gone on an amusement park ride that was essentially about moving through the dark, hearing eerie noises, and having things jump out at you? If so, you’ll be right at home with AS ABOVE SO BELOW, which not only has all those elements, but has the exact same depth of plot and character. At some point, the filmmakers give up all together and just throw things at us until the film finally limps to its conclusion.

It starts off promisingly, in spite of being yet another “found footage” point-of-view movie. (Some viewers will complain of getting headaches from the shaky camerawork and choppy editing.) Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is an academic continuing her late father’s work in the study of alchemy. Alchemy, we’re told, was the medieval precursor to actual science, whose practitioners were obsessed with finding the Philosopher’s Stone.

Yes, this was actually something that predated Harry Potter. The Philosopher’s Stone, so it was believed, could transmute base metals into gold, had healing powers, and could grant eternal life. In the prologue Scarlett has sneaked into Iran to see some ancient writings in a cave which she believes will allow her to translate a French tombstone to find out where the Stone is. Oh, and the cave is minutes away from being blown up with everything in it destroyed.

Of course, this makes little sense, but if you’re willing to go with it you can stick with the film for a bit longer. Back in Paris, Scarlett enlists the assistance of George (Ben Feldman) who can translate Aramaic but whom she once left in a Turkish jail when a previous adventure went wrong. Also along for the ride is Benji (Edwin Hodge), who is arranging to film their journey. When she realizes they have to get into the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris–essentially a vast network of tunnels that was used as an underground cemetery–she gets the assistance of Papillon (François Civil), an expert on the catacombs.

The bulk of the film takes place with them in the dark, dank tunnels. There are cave-ins. There are bones. There’s water and secret passageways and weird people who show up for no reason…  Indeed, at this point you can pretty much forget about a story where anything makes sense. People come and go, mysterious figures appear with little explanation, and when we get that little explanation near the end it’s unsatisfying and doesn’t really explain very much.

So as a horror story where you care about the story or characters, the film is a complete waste of time. However, if you like those amusement park rides, or want to enjoy the feeling of claustrophobia from the comfort of a roomy movie theater, “As Above So Below” does say “boo!” often enough to provide a few jolts or nervous laughs. There may be an interesting story about what exists under the streets of Paris. Unfortunately, this film isn’t it.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – The November Man

With Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Bill Smitrovich, Will Patton. Written by Michael Finch & Karl Gajdusek. Directed by Roger Donaldson. Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use. 108 minutes.

We don’t really expect much of releases during the last week of the summer movie season, which ends this Labor Day weekend. So THE NOVEMBER MAN– not to be confused with the abysmal 1989 victim-of-the-Writers’-strike turkey “The January Man”–is an unexpected surprise. It’s got suspense, a complex spy thriller plot, and some top-notch action, and it is surprisingly entertaining.

It opens with Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), a veteran spy, giving pointers to Mason (Luke Bracey), his protégé. Things don’t work out exactly as planned. Jump to the present where Mason is now a trusted CIA agent and Devereaux is retired and living in Switzerland. Devereaux is visited by Hanley (Bill Smitrovich), an old colleague, and asked to come out of retirement to help a Russian double agent defect. She is close to the next president of Russia and has a key name that will compromise him. Things soon go awry.

To reveal much more of the plot would be to give too much away. Suffice to say that Devereaux and Mason find themselves on opposite sides, with Devereaux still playing the teacher. When a young woman (Olga Kurylenko) who may have known a key figure emerges, the action is fully in play. Working at cross purposes are Devereaux, a Russian assassin, a CIA team led by Mason and being ordered by the shifty Weinstein (Will Patton), and Hanley, whose own motives become clear only late in the film.

Based on a novel by Bill Granger (and given a lame title change that gets explained very late in the film) you might think to give this a miss. However, if you enjoy spy stories filled with plots and counterplots and betrayals, this is exactly your speed. It’s not quite John le Carré territory, but it recognizes espionage as a profession built upon lies and duplicity. If you’re lying to everyone you meet, how can you assume anyone is telling you the truth?

Director Roger Donaldson keeps the action moving at a steady clip. If you’re not paying attention, you may find the story hard to follow, but as long as you stick with Brosnan’s Devereaux you should be in good shape. Brosnan also served as the film’s executive producer and clearly was looking for a vehicle that would showcase his talents. The former James Bond doesn’t engage in cheeky quips, rather, he’s full of irony and ready to inflict extreme violence if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

The movie was shot on location in Serbia and Montenegro. This undoubtedly saved the production money, but it also means that the film doesn’t look like every other film and makes good use of locations that haven’t been done to death in other movies. While they may have saved money shooting abroad, they did not scrimp on the script or the cast or the director, and the result is a very slick film. Brosnan has his best role since 2005’s “Matador” (another film from his production company), and the supporting players are exceptional, particularly Kurylenko and Smitrovich.

“The November Man” is not a deep-dish spy movie, nor is it something that will be remembered at Oscar time. It’s significant because one’s expectations for the releases just before Labor Day is that they are trash being swept out the door by the studios. Instead, what we get here is a very entertaining film and one that will be enjoyed long after it has left the theaters.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


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