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Last weekend, I saw one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years—The November Man. Like with Winter’s Tale, I’m going to tell you about the whole story, because I’m not recommending that you suffer through it yourself.

The November Man opens with the high-speed car chase and exchange of fire you’d expect in an action movie. Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic) is trying to escape from “the Russians” because she’s flipped and is helping the CIA (I think). Just when things get dire, Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) suddenly shows up to save her. They race around some more, but Natalia is assassinated by Mason (Luke Bracey), a CIA agent with a mysterious past relationship with Devereaux, who has a mysterious past relationship with Natalia. It’s all very dark and brooding. The secrets come out eventually, but none of it is very interesting. After Natalia (the mother of his secret daughter) is assassinated, Devereaux is on a mission to get revenge. Somehow this vendetta coincides with his attempts to rescue Alice (Olga Kurylenko), a social worker who is being pursued by both the CIA and a cliched Russian assassin, Alexa (Amila Terzimehic). Much of the rest of the movie boils down to a) watching Alexa skulk around with guns or show how flexible she is b) spy vs spy escapades tinged with tired father issues or c) awkward sexual tension between Devereaux and Alice.

In addition to the really convoluted and shopworn plot, The November Man sabotages its better moments with needless sexism. It turns out the CIA may have been in cahoots with a top Russian official, Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), in what amounted to domestic terrorism. Arkady also was involved in the capture and trafficking of young girls, one of whom he kept with him most of the time. The girl, Mira Filipova, pretended to be mute, but really spoke both English and Russian, so she knows about the whole thing. Everyone is after Alice because they think she knows where Mira is. It’s her. Surprise! Are you surprised? Me neither. Anyway, this plot sounds like it gives some latitude for women in the film to be more than chess pieces. In actuality, women are mostly used as props in illustrations of how bad the men are. Devereaux, our alleged hero, slices an artery on Mason’s date just to prove a point to him. When Celia (Caterina Scorsone) interrogates her boss at the CIA, she gets no info, but plenty of sexist remarks hurled at her. The scene falls really flat, especially after films like Zero Dark Thirty, in which women in the CIA are portrayed with more power and nuance. A scene with Mira/Alice confronting Arkady was exciting and thrilling, but the hope that Mira will get her revenge is subverted by Devereaux coming to the rescue and taking over. Mira does eventually get her chance to speak out, but it’s a small moment in an otherwise terrible film.

My issues with the messaging aside, The November Man is just an awful movie. I took my fiance, thinking that he’d enjoy it, because even silly action movies can be fun. Within a half an hour, we both wanted to leave. We stuck it out, but found ourselves laughing and cringing at the movie, rather than really enjoying it. The story has a good mystery at heart, but covers it over with tired genre conventions. The dialogue is flat enough that at times it sounds like a spoof on spy movies. With the bad writing, it’s no surprise that the performances are weak too. Pierce Brosnan phones in his role with a quality that can only say “I did this for a payday.” Olga Kurylenko has some really beautiful and emotionally resonant moments, but for most of the film her line delivery is stiff. It was frustrating to me to see actors who I really like, such as Caterina Scorsone, given nothing to do.

Everything about The November Man suggests a lack of care or a lack of effort. There were distracting lens flares, choppy transitions, and all the aforementioned problems. Don’t waste your time or money. 1/5 stars.

The November Man was directed by Roger Donaldson and written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, based on the book There Are No Spies by Bill Granger. It runs 108 minutes and is rated R.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer