Retro Review: Proof of Life

Written: December 12, 2000

Russell Crowe hangs up his Roman armor to take a stab at playing a hostage negotiator in the new Warner Bros thriller, “Proof of Life.”

Engineer Peter Bowman (David Morse) working in a Latin American country, is kidnapped for a $3 million dollars.

Quickly forgotten and ignored by her husband’s employer and insurance company, Peter’s wife Alice (Meg Ryan) refuses to give up on his life.

She must do all she can to bring him home except she realizes that it just isn’t that simple.

Enter “K & R” (Kidnap and Ransom) expert, Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) who has abandoned his post as lead investigator for a large insurance firm after his firm pulls the plug on bringing Peter home alive.

Even Terry seems bowled over by the negotiations as they take on a life of their own. Will Peter ever come home? Who is behind this ransom?

From the moment Crowe steps on the screen you know that he is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s great leading men. He has the flair of Mel Gibson and the grit of Harrison Ford. His role in “Proof of Life” brings a lot of these elements to the forefront and we really connect with him. Crowe is excellent here.

One of the film’s downsides is probably the presence of Ryan, who seems burnt out even when her character isn’t. Scenes where she seemed to be acting her guts out reminded me of her strong woman character in “Courage Under Fire”. Where is the depth and strength in the Alice character?

The other is the film’s avoidance of the couple’s chemistry and feelings. I mean some circumstances don’t make sense in this cut.

Why did he come back to help her? What was the kiss all about? Why does Terry’s buddy (David Caruso) ask if he loves her? (There is no hint) Why does he throw his life into her mess?

There was an opening for their relationship when the couple has a huge fight just prior to the kidnapping. The middle is slow when we are with Crowe and Ryan.

The film skirts around stating that it’s all a business. Then what kind of business thing is Crowe exactly getting from this extraction?

Because director Taylor Hackford smudged out the couple’s chemistry and relationship a lot of the situations don’t gel. I would have liked to have seen Ryan and Crowe’s real-life chemistry explode and sizzle.

Then the audience would wonder what Crowe’s motive would be for saving the husband. It would have also created friction between Crowe and his buddy.

All the hostage holding sequences reminded me a lot of “Vietnam Prison of War” movies. I liked David Morse in these scenes. He is such an under-appreciated actor.

The film has little or no clichés of previous hostage dramas which is excellent.

The beginning, ending, Crowe’s charisma and Morse’s pain are all quite exciting. But the middle of the film really needed more action and suspense.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

Side Note: The avoidance of chemistry between two leads, Crowe and Ryan spikes the film’s controversy. The couple’s love affair that happened at the end of Ryan’s long-term marriage to fellow actor Dennis Quaid is what a lot of people will be thinking about watching this film. Their passionate love scene never made the final cut which begs the question was it cut for political or film reasons. The director Taylor Hackford has gone on record stating that he cut it so the film would focus more on the kidnapping. In the print hitting theaters, the couples chemistry is vacuous and there is one solitary kiss in the whole film. In that current print, the kiss is really out of place since the chemistry has been toned down a lot. One last question regarding this, is there possibly to see an alternate ending or cut to this film on DVD anytime soon?

One thought on “Retro Review: Proof of Life

  1. The Crowe-Ryan relationship is not what ended the Quaid-Ryan marriage. Quaid’s years of cheating on Ryan in the late nineties is what ended it. Please avoid gossipmagazine stories and state facts.

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