The Recruit

The Recruit is the kind of movie where the screenwriters try so hard to keep people guessing that the end becomes obvious long before. Walter Burke (Al Pacino, Simone, Insomnia) proclaims repeatedly that everything is a game, and James Clayton (Colin Farrell, Hart's War, Minority Report) does not know what to think. Burke works for the CIA, which just recruited Clayton. Clayton is top of his class at MIT. That means he's smart. He designed a program called Spartacus, that is explained so thoroughly in the beginning that it can only figure somehow in the ending. Clayton looks good, tends bar, has tattoos, and boxes! So he is the perfect candidate for the CIA. Yes, this sounds corny, and essentially sets the tone for the rest of The Recruit.

The real reason that Clayton joins is that he has daddy issues. His father died under mysterious circumstances, and he wants to know what happened. Burke appears out of nowhere, and when Clayton rebuffs him, Burke drops hints that he many know something about Clayton's father. Thus the mind games begin. Roger Towne (The Natural), Mitch Glazer (Great Expectations, Three of Hearts), and Kurt Wimmer's (Equilibrium, The Thomas Crown Affair) script plays more like an idealized version of spy school than anything else resembling reality. The plot rests on the fact that Clayton wants to find out what happened to his father (heck, he set up a website). However, given everything that happens to him, he must have some superhuman amount of patience or drive.

Bridget Moynahan (The Sum of All Fears, Serendipity) shows up as Layla, fellow recruit and hottie. Moynahan is beginning to make a career of playing dull women (usually the other woman), and it continues here. Her character is bland and dull, and is nothing more than a device to keep the plot moving. Burke tells Clayton that she turned, and it is now Clayton's job to stop her. The added challenge is that Layla and Clayton have feelings for each other (of course they do, since they had a horrible first meeting. Director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days, Dante's Peak) serves up some decent action sequences and The Recruit moves quickly enough. It is the plot twists that ruin an otherwise so-so movie. Instead of keeping the audience on its toes, the continual reversals are tiring and cumbersome.

It doesn't help that Clayton and Burke are not that interesting to watch. For all the brains the screenplay gives him, Clayton seems remarkably dumb. There is a difference between a need to discover one's past and stupidity. The script goes too far, like it does with its mind games. Farrell blew onto the scene as the next big thing, but with each additional role, he becomes increasingly conventional as an actor. Pacino swings wildly with each performance, usually depending on how good the film quality is. The Recruit has him whooping the same two phrases over and over again.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, and language.

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