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Movie Review: “The November Man” (Rated R)

Relativity(NEW YORK) -- CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) has the bedside manner of sledge hammer. We meet him as he‘s seemingly training agent Mason (Luke Bracey) to be an assassin. At a café prior to an assignment, Devereaux discovers his protégé flirting with a waitress we assume is his girlfriend, and warns him, “You feel the need for a relationship, get a dog.”  I mention this because, based on what unfolds over the course of the movie, we’re supposed to believe these two had a father-son type of bond. Believe me, that connection is never properly established.
Their mission goes tragically awry, and Devereaux blames Mason for the major mishap and gets out of the business. But five years later, he’s pulled back in -- specifically, to extract a spy in Russia with whom he clearly used to have a relationship.  Let’s just say, things don’t go well and his former student, Mason, still working for the CIA, is ordered to kill his former mentor.  It’s a game of cat and mouse!
So far, nobody is going to mistake anything here for an original idea.  But there’s more!  The reason things went wrong in Russia is because a former Russian general, Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), is on the verge of becoming president and everybody once associated with him is being systematically eliminated. Enter Olga Kurylenko’s Alice, a social worker who holds the key to Federov’s violent past. Will Devereaux get involved and help Alice?  Will Alice interfere with Devereaux’s quest for revenge against the CIA?
Devereaux is hardly a sympathetic character. He’s even willing to brutalize innocent people in an effort to exact revenge on his enemies, a choice that’s an enormous misstep by everybody who collaborated on this story.  Pierce Brosnan is likeable, but not enough to overcome Devereaux’s despicable nature. Furthermore, the movie’s ideas of strong female characters are a Russian assassin who proves her flexibility by raising her leg above her head while she’s standing, and a CIA agent (the wonderful Caterina Scorsone, Private Practice/Grey’s Anatomy) who’s subjected to the worst kind of misogynistic insults.
To director Roger Donaldson’s credit, he does a nice job building the suspense and ratcheting up the tension, but The November Man remains a barrage of clichés, major plot holes, and flawed character development.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.

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