“The November Man” is less a movie than cinematic filler, the kind of audio-visual wallpaper meant to keep movie screens occupied with bland, instantly forgettable product while “Guardians of the Galaxy” plays itself out and better, smarter movies settle nervously into their gates for the fall awards race.
For most of this generic, unthrilling thriller, Pierce Brosnan practices — unsuccessfully — a sexy scowl, an expression that makes him look either tetchy or mildly peeved, depending on how many explosions he’s dodging. Brosnan plays an ex-CIA agent named Devereaux who is pulled back into service by his old mates and winds up in the middle of a shadowy conspiracy involving a sleazy Russian politician and some dubious doings in Chechnya.
His ally in this shifting landscape of loyalties and misplaced trust is a statuesque social worker named Alice (the eye-popping Olga Kurylenko), who at one point simply must don a sequined miniskirt, sky-high heels and a magenta wig in order to get the bad guy, because . . . well, she just has to.
Roger Donaldson makes efficient hack work of a script adapted from a book by Bill Granger. Stringing together every cliche, trope and cherished chestnut from the established canon of Thrillers 101, Donaldson dutifully puts his characters in their assigned places without flourish, fuss or inspiration. Words such as “ops” and “exfil” are tossed around like so many bread crumbs on a fish pond, the better to bring viewers to the surface so they can be whacked on the head by brutish but mercifully quickly moving violence.
Those moments are so predictable, and executed with such workmanlike tediousness, that the action is actually pulse-slowing, which may be appropriate for a protagonist whose main motivation is simply to get back to a placid retirement in Switzerland. “The November Man” turns out to be the classic August movie: a triumph of competence over imagination and schlock over taste. Its highest value lies in reminding filmgoers that fall can’t come too soon.
R. At area theaters. Contains strong violence, including sexual assault, profanity, sexuality and nudity, and brief drug use. 108 minutes.