The November Man
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Bill Smitrovich, Olga Kurylenko and Will Patton
Directed by Roger Donaldson
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
The November Man is about as clumsy as spy movies get.
The dopiness starts almost immediately, when the lead spy puts on the suit of America’s top diplomat and no one knows the difference. There’s even a parade for the diplomat because apparently that’s what people in other countries do for American ambassadors — wildly attended events with huge receiving lines and lots of waving flags. And then, during the little parade, no one notices that the diplomat is not the diplomat, but in fact a CIA agent with noticeably different physical characteristics.
Yeesh, this movie goes on like this, every worthless piece of it. The CIA agent’s home computer boots to the CIA login page with a massive spinning logo, because that’s completely subtle for a spy working in another country. When a call is being traced a nerdy tech guy stands next to the phone prancing, presumably with a full bladder, and doing the “keep him on the line as long as you can” motion and holding, I kid you not, a wi-fi router up to the phone. In the same scene, spy agents arrive to an operation in a caravan of noisy dirtbikes, and then the lead spy makes a V with his fingers, points at his eyes and says, “I want eyes on him.” How did the other agents not chuckle at him a little? “Boss, we can hear you fine. Hand signals not necessary.”
The film stars Pierce Brosnan, a former James Bond, so really there is no excuse for this behavior. Yes, Brosnan’s Bond films had some flagrant spy stupidity — the invisible spy car, outrunning glacier tsunamis with parasails, and bagpipe guns — but the movies were always meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek and silly. But never idiotic, not like this heap.
Brosnan plays Devereaux, a retired CIA operative who is re-activated by his former chief, a man who is so secretive that he never bothers to tell anyone that he has brought an old spy into the case he’s working. This causes mayhem later when Devereaux turns up to rescue a female agent and everyone at the CIA is like, “Who’s this guy?” One agent, a young Jon Bon Jovi lookalike, can only manage to say, “Whose car is that she got into?” but his acting is so limited that it sounds more like, “Whose car. Is that she. Got. Into?” Siri has better diction.
Eventually it’s obvious that Devereaux is being set up, but I’m not sure that was the villain’s plan all along. It’s an accidental setup. In any case, Devereaux tracks down Alice (Olga Kurylenko, a former Bond girl), who has information on a Russian general in line to become president. The general did some bad things in Serbia, where much of the movie takes place and where a flexible hitwoman is sent to dispose of everyone. We know she’s flexible because she checks into her hotel room and promptly does the splits on the floor. Because why not? Her splits move is made more hilarious later when she’s delayed by a dying man’s final grasp for her foot. All that flexibility and she’s held up by the weakest trip move on the planet. (It should also be noted that the dying man is a reporter who works for the New York Times, yet he calls his voice recorder a dictaphone just like your grandpa.)
Anyway, The November Man is just cruising along with Devereaux murdering everyone and stumbling into action scenes, until eventually he has to settle an old score with Jon Bon Jovi (Luke Bracey). This is done by Devereaux getting drunk, slipping into Bon Jovi’s apartment and holding a gun to his civilian girlfriend’s head and then severing her femoral artery to prove a point that agent’s shouldn’t date while on duty. This poor girl, did she know what she was getting into when her agent received November Man.
Women aren’t treated well here. They’re all held hostage at one point, or appear naked in strip clubs. Late in the movie, Kurylenko has to disguise herself as a hooker (in the shortest miniskirt ever filmed) to get what she wants from the evil general. But the low point of female objectification comes during an interrogation scene involving a creepy old man being questioned by a young female agent. The first thing out of his mouth: “Show me your tits.” The audience laughed at this line, not because it was funny, but because it was comically awful. And sorta embarrassing to witness.
I want to like Brosnan, but his performance is all over the place — at times he’s a cool spy guy, but it never lasts as he descends into drunken rampages. He’s trying to move past his James Bond years, and I don’t blame him, but I think he accomplished that already with 2005’s wonderful hitman dark-comedy The Matador. And not only is November Man redundant to his anti-Bond plans, but it’s all kinds of bad.
It’s directed by Roger Donaldson, who's made some noteworthy spy movies before, including the Pentagon thriller No Way Out. He’s also worked with Brosnan before, in Dante’s Peak, a movie that, when mentioning Donaldson-Brosnan pairings, can now be called “the good one.”