Nineteen years after starting his four-flick stint as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan is back as a gun-toting, punch-landing spook in Roger Donaldson’s The November Man. And while it may not ultimately be as fun as Goldeneye (it’s actually quite a bit darker), it’s still a better-than-average jaunt, full of betrayals, blood, and blindsides.

Brosnan is Peter Devereaux, who, at the outset is working with his protégé Mason (Luke Bracey) on a mission that ends with the accidental death of a young boy. Fast-forward five years, and Devereaux is retired, while Mason has progressed to full-fledged spy-dom. As often happens, though, the old master gets dragged back into the fold for One. Last. Mission. When that mission goes south, too, Devereaux and Mason find themselves on opposite sides, and the student is charged with hunting down the teacher.

From there the plot takes a side trip through Convoluted-ville, as various characters (including an eager newspaper reporter, a refugee resettlement program director, and a greasy, strip club rat) all come together to help Devereaux uncover the truth behind a Russian politician’s rise to power.

Once the story (based on the late Bill Granger’s 1987 novel There Are No Spies) settles in, the film actually does a nice job finding its footing. Donaldson, showing he hasn’t lost all the talent he displayed directing 1987’s No Way Out, keeps the plot moving along at a brisk pace, with twists and turns around every corner.

It’s Brosnan, though, who puts The November Man on his back and brings it home. Flashing the same charisma that landed him the Bond gig, he pulls a “later-years-Harrison-Ford” move, proving the he can still carry a movie when he needs to. Sure, his hair’s a little grayer, and his face is a bit wizened, but the sly grin and dry wit are in full effect.

There’s not much terribly remarkable about The November Man (other than a few inordinately violent parts and an awkwardly out-of-nowhere sex scene), but in and of itself, it’s a perfectly serviceable spy caper. And if it brings Brosnan back into the fold for more spy games in the future, all the better.

3/5 stars