The Recruit (2003) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexuality, and language
Running Time: 115 min.

Cast: Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Kenneth Mitchell
Director: Roger Donaldson
Screenplay: Robert Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer

Listing most of the reasons why I feel The Recruit to be just mediocre fare might employ spoilers, so some gripes I have will have to be left unsaid. Of course, the two stars of the film might lend people to think that this is a film worthy of one of the hottest stars working today and one of the great actors of all time. I suppose that’s a fallacy, as both have been in some mediocre films of late, and The Recruit does nothing to put them back on the right path.

Although Pacino (People I Know, Simone) gets top billing, he is actually more of a supporting player. Farrell (Phone Booth, Minority Report) is the real star, playing a potential leading recruit sought by the CIA for employment. Farrell is still seeking what might have happened to his father, who was rumored to have also been working for the CIA, and the job provides ample opportunity to dig further into the matter. He must first pass a series of rigorous tests and mind games before becoming a full-fledged spy, and under the dictation of instructor Walter Burke (Pacino), the footing is never too sure as to whether what he tells him is true or just part of the training to test him. Burke seems to be impressed with Clayton’s abilities, so employs him on a covert mission to get close to an attractive female agent to stop her from stealing a valuable computer program.

The Recruit is very similar in its plot structure to the cop film, Training Day, so don’t be surprised if you experience a sense of déjà vu.  We have the young and naive trainee under the direction of a grizzled veteran, who makes it his task to test out the green recruit to see what he's worth and to prepare him for the real assignments out there.  The similarities stop there, because in almost every respect, The Recruit is the inferior film.  I won't go so far as to say that Al Pacino is not as good an actor as Denzel Washington, as they are both the best at what they do, but his performance in this film doesn't even come close to touching Oscar-winning. 

Farrell gets his first taste of carrying a major action film, and he does fine, but his character is requires little for him but to look perplexed at every twist and turn.  The only pleasant surprise comes from Bridget Moynahan's (Coyote Ugly, Serendipity) excellent performance as Layla, the woman Farrell is sent to get the goods on.  Coincidentally, this is the second time in a row she has played the romantic interest of a man inducted into the CIA for his skills in the outside, coming just after The Sum of All Fears

THe Recruit might please those who haven't seen the handful of films that it draws a good deal of its plot from (Spy Game for instance), as there are some curveballs thrown in here and there to keep you on your toes.  However, savvy viewers will have no trouble figuring out what's the what, and will most likely find this a tepid affair from beginning to a particularly awful ending.  The Retread is perhaps a more honest title

Qwipster's rating:

©2003 Vince Leo