The Recruit

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Review byMatthew Turner17/03/2003

One out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Ridiculous, laughable, intelligence-insulting “thriller” that’s only enjoyable on a ‘so bad it’s almost good’ level – Farrell has charisma to spare but it’s not enough to save this.

Director Roger Donaldson’s career has been frustratingly up and down over the years - for every No Way Out he makes, there’s a Cocktail, for every Species, there’s a Dante’s Peak. Or something. However, his previous film, the tense political thriller Thirteen Days showed a marked increase in quality, so you could be forgiven for expecting better from his next film than rubbish like this.

In fact, it’s probably fair to say, that if this didn’t have the combined power of Pacino and Farrell’s box office clout, it would probably have gone straight to video, which, frankly, is what it deserves.

Geek Rails Against CIA

Rising star Colin Farrell plays James Clayton, a cocky computer whiz given to slagging off the – post 9/11 - CIA in bars as “a bunch of old white men who let us down in our country’s hour of need”.

He’s overheard by Shouty Al Pacino’s grizzled CIA veteran Walter Burke, who swiftly smooth-talks him into signing up for the CIA training program. (He’s able to do this because he correctly divines Farrell’s Father Issues – his father disappeared in Mysterious, Possibly CIA-related Circumstances many years ago).

Once installed in “the Farm” (the training facility), Farrell discovers that “everything is a test” and endures all manner of humiliation and mind-games as part of the training. Along the way he falls for fellow student Layla (Bridget Moynahan, who you may be unlucky enough to remember from The Sum of All Fears). But can she be trusted? And just what is Shouty Al really up to?

Tedious Cliché-Laden Dross

For the most part, this is just tedious, cliché-laden stuff, from Farrell’s clumsy Father Issues sub-plot to the ‘typing fast is cool’ computer geek stuff that Swordfish suffered from. The constant double-crossing is entertaining at first but swiftly becomes predictable and annoying. There’s one decent chase sequence but that’s about it, entertainment-wise.

However, towards the end of the film, the script takes a headlong dive into pure stupidity and actually starts to become enjoyably bad – at one point Pacino puts his head through a window for no reason at all and then launches into a laughable speech with lines like “You’re like a little bird with its beak wiiiiide open, jus’ waitin’ for me to VOMIT INTO IT!”

Having said that, a bad Shouty Al performance is always worth watching, even if it’s only to laugh about and do impressions of in the pub afterwards. Farrell, to his credit, solidifies his leading man credentials and more than holds his own against Pacino’s histrionics but you can’t help thinking he deserves better than this. (His next movie, the upcoming Phone Booth, is, luckily, much better).

Sad to say, The Recruit really is a waste of time for everyone involved – don’t be fooled by the semi-decent reviews it’s received elsewhere. Best avoided then, unless you’re a connoisseur of Bad Shouty Al Performances. Although there is a particularly good moment that’s guaranteed to get a laugh, when they drive past a sign that says “The George Bush Centre For Intelligence”.

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The Recruit
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Content updated: 12/11/2019 23:26

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