Film review: Pierce Brosnan churns out second-rate action in The November Man

The November Man fills screens nationwide with haphazard plot turns and indulgent misogyny. Photo credit: Relativity Media The November Man fills screens nationwide with haphazard plot turns and indulgent misogyny. Photo credit: Relativity Media

Watching The November Man try its best to be an exciting Bourne-inspired actioner is like listening to someone trip over themselves, so eager to get to the punchline of a joke that they skip key parts of the setup. And just as a botched joke can be unintentionally funny, so too is The November Man mind-bending for reasons completely unrelated to its attempts at intrigue.

The movie begins following veteran spy Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) on a botched mission as upstart David Mason (Luke Bracey) disobeys an order to save Devereaux’s life. Years later, Devereaux is pulled out of retirement to take part in a final mission with both personal and geopolitical ramifications, pitting him against Mason and the darkest depths of the CIA.

Despite its fondness for intrigue and plot twists, the only surprising thing about this Brosnan-produced vanity project—which speaks surprisingly low of Brosnan’s vanity—is that it got a theatrical release at all. Out of focus both conceptually and visually (really, the camerawork is noticeably bad), it screams of straight-to-DVD quality, and would be right at home on a shelf next to the five movies Sean Bean was in this month.

If there’s one thing The November Man should be remembered for, it’s for budding filmmakers to learn how not to handle plot twists. Potential spoilers follow: Devereaux has a weak spot that he’s been hiding for years…that is very easily discovered by a cursory photo search in the CIA database. Three-quarters of the way into the plot, we find out that someone isn’t who they said they were, but the character was introduced so haphazardly and awkwardly that I already thought the newly revealed fact was just the regular plot the whole time.

Sure, it’s dumb. You already knew that. But it’s worse than that. As it plods along, The November Man is kind of about war crimes in Chechnya, the future Russian president, student versus teacher, and the ethics of committing geographically contained atrocities to prevent global ones. Mostly, though, it’s about verbally abusing women, kidnapping women, putting innocent women in the line of fire, and just generally not being very fond of women.

Misogyny is sadly nothing new to this genre, with casually demeaning language, superfluous girlfriends, and entire conversations unnecessarily set in strip clubs, but there is nothing casual about the sexism of The November Man. It goes out of its way to be hateful to its female characters, as when a top level interrogator—who, given her high rank, we would presume is a trained and capable professional—lilts under the pressure of being casually and enthusiastically told to “show me your tits” and being called an “ignorant twat.” A lead character makes the transition from innocent bystander to secret badass, until she takes off her dress, starts crying, and has to be saved. Every female character is either sexually harassed, raped, shot, stabbed, or kidnapped. A female assassin promises to be exciting at first, but is constantly upstaged by the bros and meets a cartoonish end. Sexism is real and deserves to be portrayed, but the feeling here is that the writers jumped at the opportunity to be sexist as though it’s a guilty pleasure.

Given the glee with which The November Man discards its plot in favor of a toxic combination of clichés and a level of hatred toward women that is far and above the unfortunate norm, why its cast and crew desired to make a second-rate Bourne movie in a world where The Bourne Legacy already existed is a bigger mystery than anything in the movie itself.

Playing this week

A Most Wanted Man
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

As Above/So Below
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Begin Again
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Boyhood
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Calvary
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Chef
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Expendables 3
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Ghostbusters
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Giver
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Guardians of the Galaxy
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

If I Stay
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Let’s Be Cops
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Magic in the Moonlight
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The November Man
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

What If
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

When the Game Stands Tall
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Movie houses

Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

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