MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The November Man’ Is Mean, Dull, And Entirely Forgettable

November Man Movie Review

Film: The November Man
Starring: Pierce Brosnan
Directed by: Roger Donaldson

There is a difference between violent storytelling with an inherent sense of fun and violence for the sake of violence. November Man is more often than not the latter, and that is only the start of its many problems.

Making his first return to the world of spies and the lives they can never out-run for the first time in over a decade, Pierce Brosnan leads a cast of relative nobodies as an aging spy who thought his professional life was behind him. He walked away from training and gunplay years prior to the beginning of November Man, but when a longtime friend and business partner shows up asking for help, Devereaux (Brosnan) agrees to take on what he believes will be a simple mission. Things go awry not long after this point, with bloodshed and pointless deaths aplenty, and before long Devereaux finds himself pitted against a former pupil while simultaneously trying to uncover a mystery surrounding the Russian President-elect.

If you’ve read the paragraph above and feel as if you’ve just been pitched a low rent James Bond, you’re correct. The November Man wishes so badly too be considered slick and badass that its desperation to seem edgy bleeds into otherwise simple sequences of exposition. Devereaux has no concern for the lives of others, at least not that we can see, and his pupil – as well as the people he works for – are even worse. Bullets and blood fly every few minutes, but none of the leads are even scratched until well into the third act. This would be fine as long as the sequences themselves were thrilling, but the direction of Roger Donaldson is so limp-wristed that it is hard to even care in the first place. Where films like The Bourne Supremacy have been criticized for being too quick with their cuts during chase scenes, November Man feels content to slowly follow along, as if to offer a bird’s eye view of the madness. There are instances when this idea works for a moment, but overall it comes across as lazy.

Setting November Man’s issues with its action sequences aside, viewers are never given much reason to care about the people on screen. We only know Devereaux is the hero because he’s on screen the most, but if you were to judge him based on his actions I’m not sure where he would fall. He’s just as heartless, egotistical, and bull-headed as anyone else on screen. Likewise, his enraged former pupil is made to look as if he suffers from an extreme need to be accepted, but again the film never offers any explanation. Even the main bad guy, whose identity I will not spoil here, never provides much reasoning for his actions or rage. It’s as if the film wanted to appear more mysterious than it is, and to do so omitted facts that would otherwise flesh out this two-dimensional world.

November Man also suffers from rampant misogyny. I’m not typically to type to address this issue, but aside from one female character’s late third act attempt at heroism women are treated like trash from beginning to end. In fact, the first scene involves a conversation between Devereaux and his pupil about how women will only lead to trouble, if not death. From that point forward, women exist as monsters, whores, and two-faced creatures that no man can ever fully trust. They’re not safe from gunplay either, and that includes instances when Devereaux is the one with his finger on the trigger.

I could forget many of these grievances if the final frames of November Man tied everything up into a nice action movie bow, but that is not what happens. Stories have been running in the press for weeks about Relativity’s desire to make this film the launching point for a new franchise, and as such there’s a handful of loose ends that remain frayed when the credits begin to roll. The surprising thing, however, is that the film doesn’t address them or attempt in the slightest to set up a second chapter. It just drops them and moves on.

Pierce Brosnan deserves to be remembered as an actor capable of making spy films cool again. That’s what he did for James Bond, and it’s clear that is what Relativity hoped would happen with The November Man. Unfortunately, the film is far too mean, dull, and entirely forgettable to do anyone any good. It’s the worse film Brosnan has created in recent memory, and it is without a doubt a top 3 contender for worst action film of the year. If it weren’t for Brosnan giving it his all, this film would be a complete waste of digital celluloid. Skip it.

GRADE: D-

Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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