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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
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by Collin Souter

"Romantic sub-plot and mis-casting kills 'Life'"
3 stars

Can’t some writers/directors concede to the fact that some stories work perfectly well on their own without having to force an awkward first kiss between the two leads? Why does every movie have to have a romantic sub-plot? Even Dr. Suess’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas can’t escape it. Same goes with Taylor Hackford’s latest thriller, Proof Of Life, a sometimes compelling story with two of the biggest actors working today, one mis-cast, the other right at home.

Proof starts off with Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) describing his methods for freeing a man from hostages, as we watch it happen. Meanwhile, in Latin America, Peter Bowman (David Morse), an engineer, gets kidnapped by anti-government terrorists. His wife, Alice (Meg Ryan), and his sister, Janis (the annoying Pamela Reed), try to enlist the help of a hostage negotiator. Terry Thorne arrives, but since he works as a freelancer, the insurance will not cover it.

Terry, not one to give up on a case due to a technicality, returns to find Alice has crackpot negotiators trying to convince her to pay over $600,000 to the terrorists. Thorne and his team (one of them played by David Caruso) chase the bad-guy negotiators out and proceed to do in their way. But first, they tell Janis to go home to her husband and kids, so as not to get in the way of the movie’s plot.

Morse’s scenes as a kidnapping victim have little going for them on the originality scale. He tries to get one of the kidnapper’s relatives to help him, but to no avail. He meets another victim who has been in their clutches for over nine months. They try and help each other out by making escape attempts, but they don’t quite go according to plan. I liked the scenes involving Morse’s kidnapping and torture, not so much for the mostly-subtitled and stilted dialogue, but for the atmosphere. The fields and mountains look ugly, muddy and grim, making an interesting contrast to the same location in a beautiful picture-postcard wide shot.

The first problem with the film has to do with the casting of Meg Ryan. Over the years we have grown used to her as Nora Ephron’s romantic-comedy voice-box. Occasionally, Ryan turns up in a dramatic role that does suit her (When A Man Loves A Woman, Courage Under Fire), but here I just didn’t buy it. This may seem shallow, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that she has not changed her look since 1995’s French Kiss. Imagine Harrison Ford playing his role in The Mosquito Coast while still wearing the Indiana Jones get-up. She just didn’t convince me, but that also has a lot to do with Hackford’s direction. What does Meg Ryan do the night her husband has been kidnapped? She makes a salad!

Russell Crowe, on the other hand, does okay. He plays it cool, but without being smarmy. His character has been doing this job for years at the expense of his wife and kids. He tries to keep an emotional distance, but finds it difficult since most of the job entails human suffering on both sides of the spectrum. Even in the film’s Rambo-esque 3rd act, Crowe keeps his character balanced, almost stoic. In another movie, he would make a perfect strong-silent-type/romantic lead.

I would like to have seen a complete scene in which Crowe demonstrates his ability to haggle with the terrorists. Instead, Hackford uses two or three montage sequences, in which we watch Crowe babble into a microphone while Ryan watches admirably. We only get glimpses of how good a job this guy does, but we get very little as to why Ryan falls for him, and vice versa for Crowe’s affections toward her.

I did like the film’s ending, however forced its build-up may have been. In the end, the guy does not get the girl since, obviously, Ryan and Morse have been waiting two months to embrace each other. I like it only because too many movies these days feel it necessary to complicate these matters even further in order to arrive at a “satisfactory” ending. I also like it because we only have Crowe’s contemplating facial expressions to bring the movie home, rather than a few lines of superfluous dialogue.

Much has been said about the real-life relationship between Ryan and Crowe, and whether or not their off-screen chemistry will resonate on screen. I have to say it does not. The main problem with the film has to do with the relationship between these two characters. It would be much more convincing had the writers built up to a deep friendship, as well as letting the scenes between the two linger a bit longer. Many of the scenes feel rushed.

At the screening I attended, one could feel the collective sense of O-Puh-lease! amongst the audience when Crowe and Ryan finally did kiss. Writers/directors will hopefully take that as hint to leave romance to the romantics.

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originally posted: 12/05/00 23:08:40
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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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