Film Review: The November Man

Written by Matt Kelly

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Plot: After a job in Russia goes wrong, retired spy Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) has to work with the mysterious Alice (Olga Kurylenko) to solve an international mystery with possibly disastrous consequences all while being tracked by his former mentee Mason (Luke Bracey).

This is Taken’s fault mostly.

Before Taken, there didn’t seem to be a huge market for a movie about a retired cop/C.I.A. agent/hit man coming out of retirement to do one last job. Sure, there was Die Hard but those seemed to fizzle out once Justin Long and Kevin Smith got involved. After Taken, there was something really fun about a badass older star running around a foreign country shooting everyone. Well the fun’s over. The spark is gone. Hollywood is churning out four or five a year and now it’s Pierce Brosnan’s turn. Let’s see if The November Man can manage to do something interesting with the first movie in what will almost certainly not be a long line of movies based off of the popular November Man novels. Spoiler alert; they can’t.

Photo Credit: Aleksandar Letic
Photo Credit: Aleksandar Letic

Now I am a stickler for titles and this one was stupid. They call Pierce Brosnan the “November Man” because he always kills people…you know…like November. The month of November. The most deadly month. Now naming a spy after a winter month where the leaves fall of trees is pretty dumb, but the weirder move is giving a spy a name that just implies that he kills people. All of the spies in movies kill people. They should all be the November Man; Jason Bourne, James Bond, the whole gang. But then no one would be able to tell anyone apart. So we should probably give the movie a new name based around Pierce’s specialty. This movie should be called “The Spy is Right around the Corner but the Bad Guys Don’t Notice BAM He Hits Them with Something!” But if that’s too long maybe just “Spy Around the Corner.”

To start, The November Man has no characters. There are a bunch of players within the plot, but they lack a lot of the qualities that would make them a character. They don’t seem to have much motivation besides the old “Doing what they’re told until they stop doing what they’re told” bit. They also don’t really have anything interesting to do. The plot is pretty flat, so they aren’t really forced to make any big moves that would help to define their character. There is an exception to the flatness in one scene but that turns out worse than if they hadn’t done anything at all.

Photo Credit: Aleksandar Letic
Photo Credit: Aleksandar Letic

[The next two paragraphs will spoil a really weird part of the movie for you but honestly it has almost nothing to do with the rest of the thing so don’t get too worried. It’s just weird.]

So up until the middle of the film, we have had a whole cat-and-mouse thing going between Peter (Brosnan) and David (Bracey). Who is the cat? Who is the mouse? You know how this goes. Anyway, David is in the middle of a very important spy mission so he goes to a club to get drunk and have sex with his neighbor, like you do. This leads to a very awkward sex scene and the next morning the neighbor is gone! Whaaaaaaa! Is she bad?

Nope. It turns out Peter broke in at some point during the night to hold her at gunpoint to have a weird “Will you kill a person?” conversation with David. Peter seems to be interested in finding out whether David will be a man or a killer of men so he holds the girl hostage at knife-point and screams a lot. This wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t know the answer to Peter’s question already. David is absolutely a killer of men. He kills all the time. He killed some guy in the first scene. He even killed Peter’s wife and Peter knew that it was David all along. This doesn’t inform his character later in the movie either since he keeps killing people until pretty much the second before the credits. So we just have a big yelling scene that is completely out of character for everyone and it’s never spoken of again because, why not?

There are also no buttons. None. I really don’t get it. For those of you not familiar, a “button” is that last line or bit of action in a scene that is either a big joke of a clever retort that signals to the audience that the scene is done. For instance, Avengers has some really good buttons. Watch this scene, which some have described as the greatest minute in cinematic history. The button is when Hulk punches Thor. It doesn’t need to be there but without it the scene feels like it’s missing something. I bring this up because every scene in The November Man seems to have a button they are waiting to deliver but they just go ahead and edit them out. It is like an unclosed parenthesis. It is very irritating.

Photo Credit: Aleksandar Letic
Photo Credit: Aleksandar Letic

Acting wise, Pierce Brosnan isn’t necessarily phoning it in; he just doesn’t seem to have much to do besides shoot and talk on the phone. There was something about Luke Bracey, who played Peter’s protégé, which I really liked. He played frustrated pretty well and did seem to really bring it all together. Olga Kurylenko also did a pretty good job. She was able to hit some interesting notes but she just felt like a character we had seen too many times before, like in Quantum of Solace where she played the exact same character. It really was the same. Overall the movie was very okay.

Also, this movie should have been released in November. Duh.

The November Man gets 5/10. Watch it for that one really weird scene. You will enjoy that.
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Matthew Nando Kelly is a contributing writer for Pop-Break. Aside from film reviews, he also writes about television and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He loves U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. He can also occasionally be found writing lists on Topless Robot. His twitter is @NationofNando

Matthew Nando Kelly is the cool and tough Managing Editor of Pop Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he makes pop culture brackets with fellow writer DJ Chapman.