I’ve never seen the feat in person, but November Man treats us to this classic sight gag early. Admittedly, the panes of glass are on a truck instead of carried by jaywalking delivery guys, but still. If you see it happen firsthand, truck and pane of glass in congress, it’s probably pretty rad. Shrieking tires, the crunch of pulverization, the spray of glass, quite a spectacle. Though, in the end, when you walk away, you won’t be able to help but notice how the whole bit is laughably cliché. In November Man, a car hits a pane of glass, and the glass shatters.
It isn’t James Bond, but it’s hard not to correlate the two when former Bond Pierce Brosnan plays CIA super-agent Peter Devereaux. November Man is a die cut coaxed-out-of-retirement spy thriller. Predictable is a generous way to describe any plot element, but the film offers a few nice character wrinkles to complement Devereaux’s aging face. All the things that make James Bond intriguing and sexy cannot age well.
Peter Devereaux is a clumsy nudging of a “Bond who’s seen too much,” type. The guy who sips martinis after choking some villain’s crony to death becomes an alcoholic who chugs four mini liquor bottles after gunning down a room full of men. Any super spy left to reconcile the blood on his hands and secrets in his head is some sort of high functioning sociopath. One scene in particular, we’ll call it the knife scene, is the quintessence of using a human being as an end to serve, and Devereaux does not disappoint.
Outside of Peter’s occasional moment and a rather enjoyable—if unimaginative—core plot, everything related to November Man is dumb. I hate to use a word so reductive, but any other word seems dishonest. All attempts at characterization, intrigue, political commentary, lack grace, wit, or substance. It’s just dumb. To revisit the aforementioned knife scene—in a moment where tensions between our key players are meant to be so taught drama should ooze from the screen—I was, no shit, stifling my laughter.
It’s hard to believe how tone deaf November Man is at times. One of the favored targets seems to be women. Whether they are being denigrated verbally, used as vessels of sexual pleasure, physically assaulted, or at times all three, they are paper thin characters. Olga Kurylenko who turned in a promising performance in Malik’s To the Wonder is given nothing to work with. Even the male players are housed inside hackneyed archetypes. Luke Bracey is served up on a platter as young, dumb, and full of cum Mason. If it even needs to be typed out, Mason and Devereaux used to be partners. Oh, and Mason thinks he’s the cock of the walk now.
Instances like this manifest again and again submarining any chance November Man has to at least be fun. When the story is in high gear, plenty of generally pleasing things happen. Action sequences are relatively well constructed, fisticuffs are often, and sure enough I wanted that badie to go down. So where did it all go so wrong? November Man tries desperately to be something we don’t require it to be.
In some more generous reading, perhaps the film is so aware of genre and self it’s truly sublime, but you know it ain’t true. November Man deemphasizes the most important part of the equation. Brooding spies, one night stands confused as love, conspiracies hatched by wicked men for "the greater good," it's all immaterial to a film so intelligence averse. Car + pane of glass = smash. AndNovember Man didn't even know a good thing when they held it in their hands.