The Recruit

Bomb Rating: 

What's the most tedious thing on Earth? A director with a subject he doesn't understand.

This isn't James Bond, but that doesn't stop the filmmakers from giving the one female character in the film a truly serviceable name: Layla (Bridget Moynahan). I don't believe they ever mention her last name, but I've got a hunch that it's something classy, like "Longtime" or "Wannadoomi."

Director Roger Donaldson, who stunned the filmmaking world with such brain-numbing efforts as "Dante's Peak" and "Cocktail," has created another winner, proving once again that the answer to the age-old question "What's the most tedious thing on Earth?" is still "A director with a subject he doesn't understand."

And hey, I'm not saying I know squat about being in the CIA, but Donaldson's answer to convincing the audience that Walter Burke (Al Pacino), James Clayton (Colin Farrell) and everyone's favorite lone female agent, Layla, are really the skillful, talented, hard-to-spot surveillance experts the CIA has trained them to be is to use the close-up as liberally as Anna Nicole Smith uses rash cream. Why? Well, because when you're hiding in the middle of a train station, using a close-up is really good at making the audience forget that this stealthy CIA operative who looks so hidden on our screen is actually standing amongst hundreds of people in plain view. James tracks a suspicious exchange between Layla and some man because Burke insists Layla is a double agent. Unfortunately, James is standing at the entrance to the station. So, to make it look like he's really stealthy, Donaldson employs the close-up. "Oh, look! Nobody sees him but us!" It's like peek-a-boo. It's the kind of technique you'd use to trick a toddler or a dog.

"The Recruit" also features Al Pacino in his worst kind of role. Apparently he's supposed to add some kind of believability to the character, but mostly he stands around looking like he's trying to figure out his next personality tic. Donaldson spends an interminable amount of time following the initial training session which involves such engaging activities as "picking up a date at a bar" and "lie detector 101." One imagines that Donaldson went through an analogous filmmaker's training session on his way to becoming a feature film director. Activities included "boring your audience to death" and "sucking ass."

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