The November Men

1994 Directed by Paul Williams. Starring James Andronica, Leslie Bevis, P.w. Williams, Beau Starr, Caralissa Gines, Robert Davi.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 8, 1994

Now I know what can happen after one too many viewings of the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination. You can go mad with conspiracy fever and, if you're cinematically inclined, you end up making something like The November Men. This low-budget thriller is a movie within a movie within a movie -- practically ad infinitum -- about a filmmaker making a movie about making a movie about an assassination attempt against former President Bush. Further layering the story is the casting of both the The November Men's actual director and scriptwriter in the roles of the fictional movie's director Arthur (Williams) and presidential assassin Duggo (Andronica). Adding to the movie's realism is footage shot by Williams and his crew of both Bush and Clinton on their campaign trails in 1992, though the superimpositions of rifle cross-hairs over the candidates' faces are sure to stir some controversy. Such images, after all, are harder to write off as fiction. Essentially, The November Men methodically peels back its story layer by layer. Yet what results is less an aggregate convolution of intrigue than a plottable serve/counterserve-type movement. Like a puzzle of Chinese boxes that keeps opening up to reveal further layers, The November Men unravels its storyline. But it is done with so little finesse that each new revelation practically announces itself with a chiming ta-daah. Every narrative twist is clearly mapped for the viewer so that there is very little to figure out or surmise for oneself, which, of course, is a large part of the fun in a thriller. By the time we see an inserted image of a wolf and remember that ex-Marine Duggo had earlier talked about being a lone wolf, we're ready to toss in the bib with the spoon-feeding. The movie also does not know when to quit. It gets so caught up in its movie-within-a-movie game that it forgets to tell a slam-dunk story. Not helping matters is the static camerawork which relies primarily on dependable shot/reaction shot set-ups which lull viewer attention rather than increase paranoia. On the whole, performances are serviceable but often less than believable. Still, there's something likable about The November Men, more for what it wants to be rather than for what it is. In the end, its ambitions outweigh its accomplishments but that, in itself, is no small feat. One comes away feeling that the filmmakers should have spent less time watching Medium Cool and JFK and more watching assassination thrillers like The Manchurian Candidate and In the Line of Fire.

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The November Men, Paul Williams, James Andronica, Leslie Bevis, P.w. Williams, Beau Starr, Caralissa Gines, Robert Davi

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