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As Above, So Below

November Man

September 4, 2014

As Above So Below

(* 1/2) Rated R

For a supposed horror film As Above, So Below must have one of the longest setups I can remember seeing in all of my years spent ingesting horror films. The thing about fright films, something I really admire about them, is that the premise is generally set up in as little time as possible, allowing for the meat of the story—no pun intended—to transpire in a relatively short amount of time. This film takes an agonizing thirty minutes to get going and, in spite of a few scattered scares here and there, never really takes off. And it must be said that thirty minutes is an eternity when forced to spend time with characters as uninteresting as these.

Here, scholarly twentysomething Scarlett (attractive, but unconvincing, Perdita Weeks), is hell bent on locating a Philosopher’s Stone of some sort that has the power to heal. If it sounds like we’ve been there, done that, you’re probably thinking about Harry Potter and, if so, you would be correct in your thinking.

Since this is yet another entry in the found footage genre, Scarlett can break the fourth wall and talk directly to the camera. She does just that, crowing about her sizeable academic credentials and ability to speak multiple languages (even two dead ones, as if we care) before getting to the heart of the matter which is the unenviable task of having to crawl through the Paris catacombs to obtain this miraculous stone. This set up could have easily been achieved in ten minutes or less but then we would have only had a 70-minute film. Then again, maybe that wouldn’t have been such a terrible thing, but never mind. If the film feels padded that’s because it is.

Scarlett, accompanied by her camera-toting buddy, Benjy (Edwin Hodge) and her ex-boyfriend, George (Ben Feldman), eventually hook up with a team of underground explorers. There is an attempt at a backstory as Scarlett notifies us that her father was driven to madness in his search for this stone. Of course it’s a foregone conclusion that some or all of Scarlett’s team of second-rate archaeologists will befall some untoward fate or another. They encounter such uninteresting frights as a rotary telephone that rings incessantly, a group of women who appear to worshipping some sort of unknown deity and a piano that has a note that sticks—a trick used in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons of the 1950s.

How all of these people and objects managed to get into such a small amount of space is never explained. Then again, it’s never explained as to how these people manage to survive on such a low supply of oxygen that these tunnels would provide. It’s really hard to care about any of it, truth be told.

Technically the film is nothing to brag about either, zipping from one rote scene after another. The shaky cam used in the film is so vomit inducing that it would be a good idea for theater chains to have a steady supply of Dramamine on hand in the lobby. If you’re looking for proof that the found footage genre is played out, this film should be Exhibit A.

November Man • Rated R

By JOHN DeFORE

The Hollywood Reporter

Los Angeles (AP) Onetime 007 Pierce Brosnan embraces a darker take on spycraft in Roger Donaldson’s The November Man, playing a former CIA agent whose autumnal nickname acknowledges his tendency to leave few alive when he passes through a town. A familiar string of dark secrets, shifting allegiances and (wo)man-who-knew-too-much pursuit propels the storyline (adapted from one in a series of Bill Granger novels), giving Brosnan the opportunity to prove his cool remains intact, sans tux and gadgets. November Man won’t do anything like Bond’s box office, but will satisfy the actor’s fans and moviegoers biding their time until the next top-shelf le Carre-style thriller.

Here, Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, who in his day was known for his unwillingness to form personal attachments that could compromise his duties. Like all spies, though, he had his secrets: When the woman he once loved (and who secretly bore him a daughter) dies while spying in Moscow, he becomes the enemy of her killer, his old protege David Mason (Luke Bracey), whose bosses at Langley ordered the hit lest she be captured by the Russians.

Make that one Russian in particular: Corrupt former general Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), who is on track to be the next Russian president and wants to erase anyone who knows about the atrocities he committed in the Second Chechen War.

Pierce Brosnan in November Man  

Devereaux’s ex was one of those secret-holders, and in following her leads, he winds up saving Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko) from Federov’s top assassin. (Said killer is a woman, whose introductory scenes make one wonder why we so rarely meet hitmen who do balletic splits in order to limber up before a kill.)

Fournier is a social worker who has helped some of the girls Federov sold into the sex trade, including one named Mira he made his personal slave. Mira overheard a lot during those years, and powerful people around the globe want to find her before she tells anyone what she knows.

Though the film’s cat-and-mouse scenes hardly compare to those in a Bourne movie, they’re enjoyable and only occasionally ridiculous. Brosnan, whose old franchise made a smart turn away from superspy fantasy after his departure, plays the gritty side of spookdom well, and the film offers him (sometimes puzzling) opportunities to show just how nasty he can be, even as he’s risking life and limb to save a stranger.

``Don’t put your faith in me, Alice—I promise I’ll disappoint you,’’ Peter says at one point, and Brosnan’s grave delivery almost makes you ignore the fact that it’s exactly the kind of line Pee-wee Herman ruined for troubled loners when he gave Dottie the kiss-off back in 1985’s Pee-wee Herman’s Big Adventure. This episode in Granger’s November Man series, There Are No Spies, was published two years after that, and Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek’s script does little to disguise the fact that we’ve seen and heard all of this many, many times since.

Both of these movies are playing at the Carmike and area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

 

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