'The November Man': What the Critics Are Saying

Pierce Brosnan stars in the Roger Donaldson spy thriller

The November Man, out Wednesday, stars Pierce Brosnan as former CIA agent Peter Devereaux, whose autumnal nickname acknowledges his tendency to leave few alive when he passes through a town. When the woman he once loved (and who secretly bore him a daughter) dies while spying in Moscow, he becomes the enemy of her killer — his former protege, Mason (Luke Bracey), whose bosses ordered the hit.

Directed by Roger Donaldson and adapted from one in a series of Bill Granger novels, the film is getting a jump on the long Labor Day holiday by opening Wednesday, and is projected to make $12 million in its six-day debut. The $20 million-plus movie was made by The Solution Entertainment Group, Palmstar Media Capital and Merced Media Partners, with Relativity Media acquiring U.S. rights for a reported $3 million.

Read what top critics are saying about The November Man below.

Hollywood Reporter film critic John DeFore notes in his review that "though the film's cat-and-mouse scenes hardly compare to those in a Bourne movie, they're enjoyable and only occasionally ridiculous. (A long sequence in which Devereaux and Mason taunt each other on the phone during a chase makes little sense except for those longing to hear "You've lost your touch, old man" cliches.) Brosnan, whose old franchise made a smart turn away from superspy fantasy after his departure, plays the gritty side of spookdom well, and the film offers him (sometimes puzzling) opportunities to show just how nasty he can be, even as he's risking life and limb to save a stranger." However, he sits unimpressed by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek's script.

Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times writes that "Donaldson, no stranger to inane double-cross plots (The Recruit, in 2003), keeps the proceedings moving briskly. The film is nearly over before you begin to wonder why it’s called The November Man, and giving any thought to the explanation is beside the point. There is something to be said for a thriller that rips along with no regard for anything other than its own pace, coasting on Brosnan’s blunter-than-Bond suavity and [Olga] Kurylenko’s beauty."

The Los Angeles Times' Robert Abele says, "Brosnan is aging quite nicely as a leading man, but even his residual appeal running around again in agent mode is diluted by the character's inconsistencies, a hindrance unaided by the screenplay's silly soup of the gritty and the ridiculous. As for the thrills, they're loud but empty. Donaldson can be a muscular and kinetic action director when others are mostly chaotic. But this is an intemperate effort, busy and bloody without ever being especially exciting, and in one scene involving a drunk, desperate Devereaux threatening an innocent woman to make a point, needlessly sadistic. It's called The November Man, but it's really just another forgettable August release."

The Boston Globe's Peter Keough writes, "perhaps the spy movie can move beyond mindless mayhem and return to the murkier issues of good and evil and existential angst. For a moment, The November Man looks like it might do just that, … it opens with a prologue which, though thoroughly predictable, does introduce the moral ambiguities of duty and macho one-upmanship — and with minimal collateral damage. Sadly, the film rapidly devolves into an AARP version of a Jason Bourne-like vendetta, only bloodier and less meaningful. … You will find no insight into the machinery of power, nor little in the way of fresh entertainment in The November Man."

Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle explains, "It's good to see Pierce Brosnan shooting dumb henchmen again and driving through narrow European streets at unsafe speeds. He retired from the James Bond series while still in his 40s, and there's still a lot of charismatic spy left in him at 60. Unfortunately, The November Man isn't worthy of Brosnan's audience-friendly legacy. Often frustrating and at times incomprehensible, the Bourne/Bond clone keeps the pulse racing but ultimately fails to satisfy. … Throughout it all, Brosnan gives his best effort. The R rating allows the actor to show a darker side, suggesting he might make a decent bad guy someday soon."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee