Volume 96, Issue 71
Wednesday, February 5, 2003

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Farrell successfully recruits stardom

The Recruit
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

The Recruit doesn't contain enough action to be called an action flick, and it certainly isn't smart enough to be a good spy film. Having said that, it isn't a bad movie. Then again, it isn't very good, either.

Think of director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days) as a student away from home, who has stumbled across mom's recipe for her famous Thanksgiving turkey. After cutting some corners, he realizes that the end product is a little dry, but still easily digestible. It won't kill you – you may even enjoy it – but all the while you're aware that it could have been so much better.

The Recruit stars mega-hyped Irish actor Colin Farrell as James Clayton, an MIT whiz-kid who hits the heavy-bag even harder than he hits the books.

One day, he's approached by CIA higher-up Walter Burke (Al Pacino), who informs him he has been recruited by the CIA. In order to convince the reluctant James to comply, Burke claims to know the truth about James's father – a former CIA agent killed in a plane crash 10 years earlier.

From here, the plotline surrounding James's father virtually disappears, as it is apparently nothing more than a catalyst for the rest of the film's action.

James winds up on The Farm, a CIA training camp in Ontario (meant to be Virginia), which turns out to be the most entertaining part of the whole movie. We witness the trainees participating in a variety of activities that are as phony as they are fun to watch, but still keep the viewer engaged.

Here, James meets fellow-trainee Layla, played by Bridget Moynahan, a rare find. Arguably the most gorgeous woman on the planet, Moynahan is a former model, who actually has considerable acting talent, as she easily holds her own with her two male co-stars.

However, Burke claims that Layla is a mole, and gives James the task of getting close to her and discovering who she's working for. From here, the movie coasts on auto-pilot.

The Recruit is the cinematic equivalent of a joke that writes itself backwards. In other words, screenwriter Roger Towne thinks of a place where he wants his characters to be, and then goes back and thinks, "Hmm, now how do I get there?" When somebody gives you the punch line and then tells you to write the joke, it seems much more awkward than it would be if it flowed naturally.

Lame screenplay aside, what makes The Recruit worth viewing is its cast. Pacino hams it up like the pro that he is, playing Burke hilariously over-the-top, while still keeping the audience's attention throughout.

Moynahan somehow transforms a thinly-written character from something to look at into someone we actually care about.

Finally, Farrell once again lives up to his hype as "the next big thing," owning the screen for the entire 105-minute runtime. Now that we know he can deliver, it's time for him to stop making "this kid's gonna be a star" movies, and do a film that actually makes him one.

Overall, the cast makes an entertaining venture out of what had the potential to be just another turkey.


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