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RECRUIT, THE , USA , 2002 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for violence, sexuality and language

It’s such a neat idea for a flick -- an intricately plotted tale of spies playing both sides against the middle with a gazillion twists and turns and no one, especially the audience, quite knowing where the middle is until the end. And one day, if we’re good, we’ll get a flick like that. For now there’s only THE RECRUIT and beyond Colin Farrell’s animal magnetism, it has nothing else going for it.


Trapped as he and co-star Al Pacino are in a leaden script filmed at an equally leaden pace by Roger Donaldson, there is little for the lovely Colin to do as James Clayton, the eponymous title character, but stare soulfully into space as he wrestles with his inner demons and occasionally delivers rapid left jabs to a punching bag for no better reason than in real life Colin enjoys beating the bejeezus out of a punching bag. When you are the flavor of the month, studios accommodate.


The inner demons are supposed to be the memory of his father, who disappeared in the jungles of Peru when James was still just a lad. Having grown up to be a computer whiz, he of course sets up a website asking for help in finding his father. What he gets is the CIA in the person of Al Pacino, looking as careworn and rumpled as ever. Leyton doesn’t want to be a CIA agent, but of course he caves. And of course when he gets to the training facility, known as The Farm, he falls hard for comely fellow recruit Bridget Moynahan. And, of course, someone’s a double agent.


Now, it just took me 112 words to set up the action. The film takes over an hour of valuable time from our lives to tell us exactly the same thing only more muddled and with one hackneyed plot device after another the sum total of which is surprising only in that they made it to the final version of the script. Fortunately when things do begin to percolate, albeit just a little, loud and insistent music begins to play. This is good for two reasons. One, it tells us that something is finally happening and, two, it wakes us up for it. Not that we care anymore, but the end credits will be rolling soon and we can start to gather up our belongings and finish off our popcorn and licorice whips.


Pacino, who obviously was beyond being tethered by Donaldson’s directing, hams it up as the cynical CIA agent. Colin, who seems to be trying to salvage his dignity while wondering how he got into this mess, certainly gets points for keeping a straight face as Pacino constantly beetles in on him to deliver his lines. As the eye-candy, Moynahan looks good and can take off her clothes quickly when she and Colin hit the sheets. And as the role calls for nothing more than that, she can be said to have succeeded admirably.


If you want to see an intelligent spy flick, try THE IPCRESS FILE. For a complete waste of time, try THE RECRUIT.

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