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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.61%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 34.85%
Total Crap: 7.58%

6 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Recruit, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Help Wanted"
2 stars

The Recruit is a glossy magazine ad of a movie. The product it’s pushing is hot Irish star-on-the-rise Colin Farrell.

He plays James Clayton, a scruffy genius MIT graduate working behind a bar in Boston. We know he’s brilliant because he’s invented a computer program named Spartacus that, in the movie’s jargon, “enslaves broadcast terminals” so he can control what’s displayed on the monitors of connected computers. I’m not sure that I (or Farrell, for that matter) understand what this means, but Farrell looks kind of brainy and intense when he says it and his fingers fly over the keyboard pretty fast, so it doesn’t matter too much.

Like a disproportionate number of young men in Hollywood movies, Clayton is obsessed with his absent father, who may or may not have been a covert CIA operative (in a neat 21st Century touch, he even finds time to maintain a website - This longing is the key that CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino) manipulates to persuade Clayton to apply for the intelligence agency.

Soon enough, Clayton Jr is at a special training facility, “The Farm”. The CIA may be tight on security here, but they’re pretty lax about letting Clayton show up for classes without shaving off his stubble. Clayton flunks some of his espionage exercises, but he sure passes as a clotheshorse - he manages to squeeze into his rucksack a different outfit for each day of training.

Burke solemnly intones at regular intervals that “nothing is what it seems” and “everything is a test”. The sequences on the Farm are the best in the movie because director Roger Donaldson plays with our perceptions of what’s real and what’s just a training exercise and he keeps us (and Clayton) on guard. Unfortunately, when we follow Clayton and his aspiring squeeze (Bridget Moynahan in an underwritten role) to CIA headquarters, the bogus spy plot kicks in. I was imagining all sorts of trick endings, but the climax was so stupidly predictable, my jaw dropped.

Blame the screenwriters - Roger (not Robert) Towne, Kurt Wimmer and Mitch Glazer - who undoubtedly never collaborated but simply rewrote each other’s drafts. New Zealand-born Donaldson is completing an unlikely trinity of political thrillers - Thirteen Days was set in the Whitehouse, No Way Out in the Pentagon and now The Recruit at Langley. No Way Out was pretty silly too, but I remember it having tighter suspense and more drive than The Recruit.

The biggest (unintentional) laugh comes during the obligatory car chase when Farrell speeds past a signpost at Langley marking the “George Bush Intelligence Centre” (bet that’s a tiny building). There’s nothing exceptional about the predictably muddy and steely blue-green look of The Recruit (photographed by Stuart Dryburgh), except for a chase scene alongside the tinted windows of a stationary train.

Pacino is playing a brash and jaded character bored with his job. I don’t know if the character was written this way, or if Pacino suggested playing it like this so he could sleepwalk through the role. But he reels off some of his tired speeches like he’s dictating a shopping list.

Farrell at least treats this starring role as if it’s his last. He swaggers and sweats and shoots and slugs and strips and smoulders for all he’s worth. He’s got the looks and talent to be a real star, but he still hasn’t delivered on the promise of Tigerland back in 2000 (along with Minority Report, his only halfway decent role). Perhaps he’s happy to settle for a string of second-rate action movies? Sexy gloss-floss like The Recruit will undoubtedly win him more fans, but I’m still waiting to really see him hit his mark.

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originally posted: 02/21/03 08:01:47
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User Comments

8/07/06 Tangelo Soosepot Collin is a cute monkey who acts his way from A to B 3 stars
8/07/06 R.W.Welch If you can't trust your friendly local CIA agent, who can you trust? C+ spy thriller. 3 stars
2/23/06 Frank Rountree the acting was believable, not bad 3 stars
12/10/04 Kristina Williams dull 1 stars
11/08/04 Steve Newman Surprised this had bad reviews - i really enjoyed it 4 stars
5/13/04 Dean Rapp It was ok, i like the bugs 4 stars
4/25/04 Carla i liked it a lot, the plot twists were awesome! 5 stars
3/17/04 luke good movie 5 stars
10/23/03 jessica brilliant!! 5 stars
9/02/03 Jinnvisible Has it started yet , Oh its finished already , oh I though it was a long trailer. 2 stars
8/06/03 keith langman to many plot twist to follow 3 stars
7/14/03 Bob Wee Great!!!! 5 stars
6/12/03 Jerra This is a very bad movie... The story lacks any intelligence what so ever.... 2 stars
5/31/03 bigbro its amazing how little they think we know about the CIA 2 stars
5/27/03 Jack Sommersby Smoothly directed but nonsensical plotting sinks it. 2 stars
5/23/03 .. great 5 stars
5/14/03 Natalie Stonecipher SLOW start, but 2nd half has some excitement. Pacino recovering from insomnia somewhat. 4 stars
3/20/03 Cameron Slick polished thriller is engaging until it takes one twist too many into the predictable. 4 stars
3/20/03 Boris Loved it. Typical spy stuff but good nonetheless. 5 stars
3/12/03 Greg Edmiston It was interesting, and enough to keep me attentive. No more, no less. 4 stars
3/10/03 George Jung How come FUCKING and ALL ASS aren't in the ratings? I'll say it: This movie SUCKS ALL ASS!! 1 stars
2/15/03 Chris I was hoping for more but I really enjoyed myself. 4 stars
2/06/03 Todd I wonder if Sid and I saw the same movie. typical spy crap 1 stars
2/04/03 ownerofdajoint pacino and moynihan are worth the time..... 3 stars
2/02/03 Bill Kilpatrick A manual on how to write a bad movie. 1 stars
2/02/03 will were it not for the ending, I would've said it was pretty decent 3 stars
2/02/03 Rob Decent concept, but in the end just kisses the ass of Geroge Bush 2 stars
2/01/03 dave not overly convincing of its plot-twist. a yawn and good to watch before going to bed tho' 3 stars
1/29/03 Sid Whiting Vintage Pacino, great story, brilliant directing. 5 stars
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  31-Jan-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2005



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