The Recruit
2 out of 5 stars
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trust betrayal deception It's depressing see talented filmmakers like Donaldson and Towne go straight down the predictable Hollywood action thriller route, but that's exactly what they do here. James Clayton (Farrell) is a computer whiz kid drafted into the CIA by top recruiter Walter Burke (Pacino), who accompanies him to The Farm and trains him as a super spy. Clayton's fellow recruits include the feisty Layla (Moynahan) and the hothead Zack (Macht). And before Burke can again say, "Nothing is what it seems," everything starts twisting and turning for all the characters. Is there a real conspiracy afoot? Or is it another test?

Ho hum. If this film catches you off guard you don't see enough movies. Everything is so clearly signposted that you can't possibly be surprised by any of the Big Plot Twists, right to the bombastic finale in (where else?) an abandoned warehouse. Meanwhile, Pacino delivers one of his most scene-chewing performances ever, barking his dialog and snapping the veins in his neck, even in the supposedly quiet scenes. Farrell and Moynahan fare much better, grabbing our interest and carrying us through the film. Yes, this is very watchable, glossy entertainment with a nice sheen of intelligence running through it along with subtext about Clayton's missing-presumed-dead father (but it's all show). Technically, it's efficiently well-made, and the story is constructed tight enough that we only see the gaping holes if we pause to think about them, which is something the filmmakers work very hard to keep us from doing. By the time the plot starts closing in on the requisite ending, we have almost convinced ourselves that this is a good little thriller. Then as it begins to play its final hand we realize that it's just the same old rubbish after all.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 16.Jan.03

dir Roger Donaldson
scr Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer
with Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Mike Realba, Dom Fiore, Karl Pruner, Ron Lea, Jeanie Calleja, Jessica Greco, Richard Fitzpatrick, Chris Owens
release US 31.Jan.03; UK 28.Mar.03
03/US 1h54

Sleeping with the enemy. Why let mutual mistrust get in the way of a little nookie? (Farrell and Moynahan)

pacino farrell moynahan
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall