Retro Review: The Recruit

Written: February 9, 2003

What happens when you blend a hot rising star in Hollywood with a grizzled veteran actor in a spies and espionage drama? Uh, Spy-Game? Well almost.

This time it’s rising star Colin Farrell who is recruited by Hollywood veteran Al Pacino.

Farrell plays John Clayton, a crack computer programmer who is about to make it big when CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Pacino) dangles a secret to Farrell’s father in his face. To learn more about his “pop”, Clayton would have to join the CIA.

Clayton leaves his financially secure career behind and qualifies for training at the CIA’s “boot-camp” known fondly as “The Farm”.

During training, Clayton becomes infatuated with a female recruit named Layla (Bridget Monynahan).

They develop a relationship and Burke begins to use it against his young protégé. Eventually Clayton’s feelings for Layla get in the way of a mission and Clayton washes out of the Farm.

A week later, Clayton is visited by Burke who offers him a way back into the good graces of the CIA.

His mission is to stop a mole with CIA headquarters. The mole is Layla. How will Clayton deal with his new assignment? Can he keep his affections in check long enough to take his beloved down? Furthermore is Layla really a mole?

“The Recruit” is a successful thriller until it seems to cannibalize itself with obvious clichés and an offensive publicity campaign.

For those of us who saw the first full trailer of this film, we know everything going in and it’s very hard to maintain tension when we know what’s going to happen next. When are studios going to learn that less is more?

The clichés littered throughout the film range from the actors take on the characters to the ridiculous tricks at the “Farm”.

The more I seem to see of Colin Farrell the more I am finding something two-dimensional about his acting. I used to rave about this upcoming star but he doesn’t let this character do much more than breathe and wine. The film needed us to be able to get inside Farrell’s head and know how he ticks. That is never achieved.

Pacino seems like he shifted his acting chops into neutral. For most of the film he is laid back and is coasting. When his character starts to rant and scream we are privileged to see glimmers of the Pacino of yesteryear but that’s about all. I love Pacino but here he seems a little washed up.

There are a lot of similarities here to the lukewarm 2001 spy-drama “Spy-Game” which starred Brad Pitt and Robert Redford. Looking past the casting you see this film has a lot of the same problems seen in “Spy-Game”. In spy movies these days we need more twists, action and suspense to really scream about a movie. The audiences have gotten smarter.

The original title for this film was plainly, “The Farm”. Well maybe they should have let this one out to pasture.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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