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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.39%
Worth A Look41.56%
Average: 33.77%
Pretty Bad: 11.69%
Total Crap: 2.6%

6 reviews, 41 user ratings

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Proof of Life
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Greg Muskewitz

"The big difference here is that it is always consciously thinking."
4 stars

There has been a serious dearth of intelligent action movies, and still reaching back past this year, I cannot off the top of my head, recall anything all that noteworthy. It’s quite possible that I am overlooking something, and something right in my face, but despite some solid action (“Shaft,” “X-Men,” “Gladiator”) and some nice stuntwork (“Mission: Impossible II”), there’s not much to praise for being nimble. (Though I’m sure, and it will be deserved, for some horn blowing around “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”) Otherwise, we’re left with the offal like “The Art of War,” “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” “The Perfect Storm,” “The Watcher,” etcetera, etcetera.

“Proof of Life” is different because it takes the time to make itself clear, sharp, and prepare its options. American married couple Peter and Alice Bowman (David Morse and Meg Ryan) are working on an engineering project in Tecala, Latin America. While an anti-government militia is demonstrating, Peter is kidnapped, and when they mistake him for having something to do with a big construction company who’s piping their land, they hold him for ransom.

When “Proof of Life” opens, we get a peek at the tail-end of Terry Thorne’s (Russell Crowe) job: a K & R (kidnap and ransom) negotiator and retriever. Later on, it is Terry who is hired to get Peter out alive.

One of the weaker points of “Proof” was the hinted at romance. This will probably go down more for the fact that Crowe and Ryan hooked up and broke apart the marriage of she and Dennis Quaid. Thorne is at one point removed from the project, but comes back on his own. Other characters comment on how he doesn’t have a chance with her, and if he thinks he does, why is he trying to save her husband? Alice and Terry share a kiss. It’s contrived. But when Peter is rescued, there is a straight-laced and poignant scene:

Alice: “You deserve more than this. Do you know how much you mean to me?”
Terry: Shakes his head “no.”
Alice: “Then we will never be even.”

“Proof of Life” wasn’t at all “brawn over brains,” or just mindless action. The story was inspired by William Prochnau’s “Vanity Fair” article “Adventures in Ransom Trade” and Thomas Hargrove’s novel “Long March to Freedom.” “Proof” makes it necessary to be precise and calculated. First the crisis happens. Then we absorb the problem. They map out possible solutions; they test them. We watch as they discover and follow through. They plan, and then they act. It’s convincing because that’s the way we would really expect it to be. And when there’s a slip, “Proof” offers the repercussions of what it will cause. Director Taylor Hackford, best known for “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and “The Devil’s Advocate,” seems heavily influenced by John Boorman’s “Beyond Rangoon.” The actual material itself is different, but the second and third world countries deteriorating governments and political activism, the trapping of an outsider, the smuggling out, it’s all very familiar. Yet Hackford is still able to put a variant on the denotation, and by doing so, effectively distinguishes “Proof of Life” as a cogent pseudo-intellectual actioneer. It’s compelling, and when it gets down to business in the final 30-minutes, it’s taut and pulse-racing.

I think that within the next couple years, Russell Crowe will be a solid force to reckon with. Crowe’s already proved himself with “The Insider,” “L.A. Confidential,” and minimally in “Virtuosity,” and “Gladiator.” He has a likable screen presence, but only the similarities in his characters are holding him back from the variety he is capable of. That’s why he was so lauded for “The Insider.” Ryan never leaves the vicinity of Ryan. It’s admirable for her to distance the cute-boppiness that she’s renowned for, but she still lacks the chameleon approach that Patricia Arquette or Joan Cusack have perfected. As for Morse, who quickly redeems his screen persona from his character in “Dancer in the Dark,” is determined, tough and doesn’t come off as anything less than caught in the real situation. I only wish they would have focused on him just a little more. Regardless, it was good to be able to root for him again.

“Proof of Life” has some slow moments, but avoids being plotting because the time it sets aside for itself is used to reaffirm its footing. It’s time well spent and well understood.

With a rough and virile David Caruso, and an unevenly comedic Pamela Reed.

Final Verdict: A-.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/13/00 10:40:49
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User Comments

8/01/11 Piz Action scenes carry the film. A bit long but worth the watch! 4 stars
9/20/10 Jan Patterson Grand colors. David Morse A+ David Caruso :)) I keep coming back to it. 4 stars
8/27/05 ES Ho-hum, can't say it was terrible, David Morse should have had the lead over Crowe 3 stars
11/30/03 john Russel Crowe gives a great performance - phenomenal action sequence at the end! 5 stars
6/18/03 lyn interesting....entertaining...not thought easy watch 4 stars
6/14/03 R.W. Welch Good action sequences. The rest just gets by. 3 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Decent 3 stars
4/07/03 Francis top shelf actors either sleep walking or looking awkward 3 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Interesting, well-acted film that's overlong & only sporadically exciting. Caruso is aces! 2 stars
3/03/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik Meh. 2 stars
12/30/02 John Miskey Great action film. Definitely in my Top 10. 5 stars
7/27/02 I Can't Swim Meg should retire; she can't act worth a damn. Best here is Crowe & Caruso & Morse 4 stars
7/25/02 palaboy101 one of Russell Crowe's best 5 stars
7/12/02 KMG Russell was hot....Meg GET THE FUCK OFF CAMERA! 3 stars
4/04/02 Edfink Lombardo No screen chemistry between two stars...Underdeveloped plot elements...Morse was good 2 stars
2/05/02 Bertha Venation Meg almost ruined this, was saved by Crowe & David Morse 4 stars
2/03/02 EzGoo Pretty good movie.. liked it... 5 stars
2/01/02 Andrew Carden Good Premise Wasted In A Constroversal and Confusing Adventure. 2 stars
12/19/01 Butterbean Crowe and Ryan had no chemistry, action scenes bored me, only Russ's accent kept me awake. 1 stars
12/16/01 Jack Baker the plot was solidly given and the detailed action was enjoyable, altogether rather good 4 stars
8/07/01 MsJuniper Fab edit & dialog -feels real & smart. True to Pronau article. Glad sex scene *cut* 5 stars
7/17/01 Monday Morning I'm getting to like Russell and loathe Meg more and more each movie. 4 stars
7/10/01 Piz a one-hour story told in two-and-a-half...not terribly impressive 3 stars
7/03/01 TLsmooth Russell Crowe Good. Meg Ryan Bad. Sucks Big Donkey Dicks Bad. 2 stars
6/26/01 The Bomb 69 A shame bad publicity killed this movie, intersting look at K&R, Ryan was miscast 4 stars
3/22/01 Burchy Cool idea, boring film 2 stars
3/17/01 fahrbot A bit slow at the beginning but worth it in the end 4 stars
1/11/01 RazorDog Good movie- It moved pretty slow in some parts, but had some great action. 5 stars
1/06/01 Bonnie Grossman Had it been a rental, I would have rewound after 30 minutes. "Chemistry" is chem-misery. 2 stars
12/24/00 Lance Good movie 4 stars
12/19/00 bart Boring! Stupid! Meg cam 1 stars
12/17/00 Will I didn't hate it. Overall it was okay, but Meg just doesn't cut it. 4 stars
12/16/00 Is could use more david morse, but still thrilling and engaging 5 stars
12/14/00 jon j strong male performances, but still pretty fucking boring 3 stars
12/14/00 Jules Long and boring! 2 stars
12/12/00 Lynnaea Crowe: thoroughly enjoyable; the subject: fresh, intriguing; Caruso's cameo: amusing. 4 stars
12/11/00 Greg Cotton A really excellent movie! Fine work by all the leads and none of the usual firearms goofs! 5 stars
12/11/00 Sharon C. I truly enjoyed this movie! David Morse was great. 4 stars
12/11/00 Angus moorehead Crowe shines while Ryan should stick to romantic comedy...she is awful. 3 stars
12/10/00 Darcy Morrish I thought the trailer for Speilberg's new movie was more exciting 2 stars
12/10/00 Kohawk This movie was engaging the whole way thru. Great ending, Crowe is the new Willis 4 stars
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  01-Mar-2001 (M)

Directed by
  Taylor Hackford

Written by
  Tony Gilroy

  Meg Ryan
  Russell Crowe
  David Caruso
  David Morse
  Pamela Reed
  Daniel Lugo

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