The November Man and the rise of the geriaction movie

The November Man

Pierce Brosnan joins the long list of tough-talking action heroes – and heroines – who refuse to stop swinging in their 60s

Remember that beautiful young Irishman holding Bob Hoskins at gunpoint in the memorable abduction at the end of The Long Good Friday? Thought you might. Well, after Remington Steele, James Bond thrice, The Matador and Mamma Mia!, it turns out that Pierce Brosnan – ridiculously well-preserved or otherwise – is, with The November Man, finally old enough to admit that he’s old.

Because it’s OK to be old these days. Liam Neeson already proved, with the Taken movies, Non-Stop and A Walk Among The Tombstones, that turning 60 is suddenly no longer entirely incompatible with kicking a thousand acres of ass and notching up astonishing body counts with maximum ammo expenditure. The lesson has been well and quickly learned, particularly by the Red franchise, in which almost every actor qualifies for an OAP bus pass, and chief among whose pleasures is the opportunity to watch Dame Helen Mirren behind the sights of some mega machine gun, or knocking sense into a dozen whippersnappers with a few well-placed elbow-jabs, head-butts and groin-stompings. Meanwhile, The Expendables is an old folks’ franchise for clapped-out action-heroes, and is perfectly proud to advertise itself as such.

Brosnan’s The November Man is a little late to the party, but at least it didn’t fall asleep on the bus ride over. Brosnan has been toying with the subjects of age and decrepitude for a while. In 2005’s The Matador he was a drunken, well-past-it hitman, though the wrinkles and crows-feet were already tightening in 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair. Here, in a plot reminiscent of The Mechanic or Spy Story, he’s a retired CIA agent at war with his whelp of a former protege (Luke Bracey). Of course, the years don’t hold him back one bit. He might as well be Remington Steele all over again.

I’m half encouraged that studios are finally catering to older audiences, while proving that older actors can still draw in the kids. But it’s not that brave, really: the baby boomers, the largest generational bulge of the last century, are of Geritol and Depends vintage now. They need to be entertained, they still go to the movies, and besides, they’re the only people left with any money.

Forty years ago, there were lots of old and oldish people in the movies but they didn’t pretend to be young and indestructible, because where’s the drama in that? The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid pondered the onset, not of old age, but of absolute obsolescence and irrelevance, and thought death perhaps preferable. No such doubt or introspection attends their unkillable, bulletproof successors because the movies don’t bother with things like impending death, doubt and introspection any more. Body counts and ticket-sales, that’s it.

The November Man is out on Friday

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by John Patterson, for The Guardian on Monday 3rd November 2014 06.00 Europe/London

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