The Recruit

March, 2003, Thriller

Directed by:Roger Donaldson

Starring:Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, and Bridget Moynahan

You know a thriller has failed badly when the bad guy has to make a long speech just before the final shoot-out in order to pull the plot out of an incomprehensible death spiral. Sometimes the effort becomes so labored it's painful for the audience-witness the endless soliquoy that brought last year's awful remake of Charade to it's rain-drenched close. Even a skilled actor can't pull it off; going for a rabbit out of the hat, he can only produce turkey feathers. Al Pacino finds himself in that embarrassing position in Recruit and the results aren't pretty--he becomes the consummate road kill up there on the big screen.

And if you add an overworked plot device to the stew, it only gets worse. These cinematic clichés are easy to spot if you're a regular consumer of the Art section of the Sunday New York Times; every so often, the newspaper summarizes their presence with just enough information about the movies involved to allow you to appear hip at cocktail parties. The current craze is the corrupt cop story, resulting from the success of Denzel Washington's Oscar winning performance in last year's Training Day, and now appearing in such current films as NARC, Dark Blue and this feeble offering by director Roger Donaldson.

Pacino plays an aging recruiter for the CIA who latches onto computer whiz Colin Farrell for induction into the trench coat brigade. Under Big Al's sinister direction, Farrell gets runs through a training class as offensive to the CIA as it is insulting to the audiences' intelligence. Following an apparent washout, Farrell deploys to ferret out a mole in the organization, which requires a lot of running through Washington D.C.'s subway system and shootouts which leaved those of us in the seats dazed and confused. Everything's labored; nothing works, especially Pacino's labored explanation at the film's wholly preposterous climax. 

Plot plausibility isn't a critical ingredient in thrillers of course; (one need search no further than Hitchcock's cleverly silly mistaken-identity story line in North By Northwest); but the audience can't be just lead around by it's collective nose either--Donaldson proved he knew this distinction with the well-made No Way Out 15 years ago. He's got a better cast here and surely more production money, but it's all wasted on a script as overheated as it is outlandish. 

The Verdict? Pacino & Co. shoudda stood in bed. 

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