Review: “The Recruit”

“Spy Game” without the flashy energy or interesting locales, the conventional yet enjoyable ‘Recruit’ gives audiences the standard mind games and twists you’d expect from modern espionage thrillers combined with solid performers who lend more interest to their characters than they deserve.

The film itself is divided into two halves with the first easily being the better. In it we’re treated to academy antics as these young men and women are subjected to training and learning the coldness and healthy level of paranoia that’s required in becoming an agent. After that it becomes a more standard ‘follow the potential traitor’ routine albeit with younger players than usually seen in these films, and sadly ends on a rather limp twist which is not only predictable but heavily hinted at in the trailers.

Al Pacino as always lends his usual gravitas to a fun but one of the more unremarkable roles in his career. The veteran can play these types of gigs asleep though thankfully does his best with the material given even when its gets repetitive such as his “nothing is what it seems” catch phrase which already puts you on edge and eventually helps ruin the impact of the twists.

The utterly smoking Colin Farrell brings his somewhat dark naughty boy appeal to the role of the smart but somewhat brattish Clayton, though had a more ‘clean cut’ actor been in the role it would’ve probably made the character’s actions more interesting as with Farrell its difficult to believe he would fall into traps so easily. Bridget Moynahan on the other hand is perfectly cast – bringing the smarts, independence and beauty to this all American college girl turned femme fatale. The pair look good together but actual chemistry wise it falls somewhat flat.

The early scenes with the many scenarios remain the film’s highlights. From a bar pickup routine and lie detector tests to torture scenes – the various ‘lessons’ on The Farm are believable, compelling and come out quite lavishly on-screen. A subplot about Farrell’s father is tacked on at best, the rest of the recruits including blond boy Gabriel Macht are useless, and within the last half hour the script which has been hammering into us all sorts of details of how to have secret rendezvous and such ignores all its own rules as characters regularly talk about betrayal on cell phones.

Director Roger Donalson has handled political thrillers well before like “Thirteen Days”, this however will only go down as one of his average efforts. The tension and pace tries too hard and never fully achieves anything. The solid production design and visuals help overcome a lackluster score and rather ordinary editing. Its an enjoyable matinee, rather predictable but slick entertainment.