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THE RECRUIT

Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht

Produced by: Gary Barber, Jeff Apple, Roger Birnbaum
Written by: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Akiva Goldsman, Mitch Glazer
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

US: 31/01/03
UK: 21/03/03

An insider’s view into the CIA’s secret training ground: The Farm. James Clayton (Colin Farrell) might not have the attitude of a typical recruit, but he is one of the smartest graduating seniors in the country – and he’s just the person that Walter Burke (Al Pacino) wnats in the Agency. James regards the CIA’s mission as an intriguing alternative to an ordinary life, but before he becomes an Ops Officer, James has to survive the Farm, where the veteran Burke teaches him the ropes and the rules of the game. James quickly rises through the ranks and falls for Layla (Bridget Moynahan), one of his fellow recruits. But just when James starts to question his role and decides to “wash out,” Burke taps him for a special assignment to root out a mole. As the suspense builds toward a gripping climax, it soon becomes clear that at The Farm, the CIA’s old maxims are true: “trust no one” and “nothing is as it seems.”
The was previously called 'The Farm' - but that may have made audiences think of manure, so all change to the even blander 'The Recruit'. However it still reeks of a strictly by the numbers thriller - i.e. not that thrilling or original really. Remember Redford and Pitt in last years 'Spy Game'? No doubt, some refs to 9/11 have been inserted to give it a bang-up-to-the-minute feel. However the most intruiging aspect is the continued elevation of the 5 foot 6 inch Farrell into bigtime movies. Pretty face, but hardly any substance higher than the average Melrose Place actor. Very odd.

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"Look kid... I'm the guy in this flick with the stubble okay?"



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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. ws@wall.net> London, England Ne

 


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