Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brosnan & Washington's Spy Games

Two actors well known for their roles as action heroes return in a pair of recent video releases. Former James Bond Pierce Brosnan stars in The November Man (2014), an espionage thriller from director Roger Donaldson, who worked with the actor on the 1997 disaster film Dante's Peak. Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a former CIA operative who comes out of retirement to help extract a deep cover operative from Russia. It turns out the operative has a personal connection to him. The mission goes awry and the operative is killed. Devereaux finds himself hunted by both our side & the Russians, as a deadly game of lies, deceit & and double crosses ensues. Leading the American team pursuing him is his former protégé, whose partnership with Devereaux ended badly a few years earlier.

There’s more to the mission (and the story) than meets the eye, and our hero has to get to the bottom of things before either side kills him. Why was the agent in Russia marked for death, and what does it have to do with our own government? The movie is fast-paced, and has a few good plot twists, though parts of the story are a bit predictable. The film is based on the novel There Are No Spies, by Bill Granger, part of a series featuring the Devereaux character. It's got somewhat of an old school vibe, and the Cold War-esque plot is spiced up with a modern edge. Brosnan (who co-produced the film) is good in his role as an aging spy, and the supporting cast includes Will Patton, Bill Smitrovich and Olga Kurylenko, who also has a Bond connection. She co-starred with Daniel Craig as 007 in Quantum of Solace (2008).

Also returning to the world of intrigue is Denzel Washington, who stars in a re-make/re-imagining of the 1980s TV series The Equalizer. He plays Robert McCall, a man living a quiet existence in Boston, where he works at a Home Depot-like store. He's well liked by his co-workers. McCall is even helping one of them prepare for an upcoming test for a job as a security guard. He spends his evenings reading & drinking tea at a local diner, where he befriends a young prostitute named Teri. When she’s brutally beaten by her pimp, McCall steps in to help her. It turns out he’s a former government operative, and he makes short work of her pimp, Slavi, and his men. But Slavi is employed by the Russian mob, and they send an enforcer to take out McCall.

McCall, who had promised his late wife he’d walk away from the brutal life he led as an agent, is nevertheless drawn back into that world, as he tries to stay one step ahead of Teddy, the enforcer, and his men. What follows is a game of cat & mouse between McCall and the Russian Mafia, as they try to bring him down, and he keeps beating them at their own game. He also comes to realize he can’t sit by while innocent people are hurt or threatened by evil & powerful men. The film reunites Washington with his Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua. The screenplay is by Richard Wenk; it's almost like the origin of The EqualizerThe movie is a dark, violent thriller that has some well-staged action sequences. Washington can play this type of role in his sleep, and he’s very effective here, giving the character more depth than is usual for this genre. The cast also features Chloe-Grace Moretz, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.

The films are now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for online viewing. They're worth a look for spy thriller fans, as both movies are a bit more enjoyable than today's standard action film fare. Here’s a link to the trailers for The November Man: and The Equalizer

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