Proof Of Life

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Russell Crowe has the ability to inject enough energy into a hackneyed part and bring it to life. Meg Ryan has never been able to do this. She's too self-conscious, although, as Alice Bowman, wife of a kidnapped engineer in South America, is almost convincing.

The story fits into the ex-SAS, emotionally hogtied, professional hands-on negotiating man-of- action scenario. It's a popular genre. Kevin Spacey talked the talk in The Negotiator and Eddie Murphy was surprisingly good at it in Metro.

Peter Bowman (David Morse) is abducted at a road block by masked gunmen and forced into the hills, where ill-disciplined Marxist rebels hold him for more than four months in appalling conditions. Meanwhile, a man called Marco argues on the phone about money with Terry Thorn (Crowe), an Aussie negotiator, who has stepped out of line to help Alice.

Taylor Hackford (An Officer And A Gentleman, The Devil's Advocate) is not a director you would associate with raw action and yet he does it extremely well. The hostage hideout is uncomfortably authentic and Morse gives a performance of genuine strength. Also, the rebels behave with the correct mixture of childish good humour and unpredictable violence.

Alice is portrayed as the non-conformist wife of a dull man, whose marriage has hit a bad patch. She's bored, frustrated and capable of gabbing rhubarb ("Things don't happen for a reason. They just... happen"). As a symbol of individuality, she smokes, but Ryan can't hold a cigarette and make it look as if she's ever taken a drag in her life.

The film flirts with sexual chemistry, which suits Ryan's style more than Crowe's, taking time away from the real drama, which is whether the man in that shed on the mountain above the forest still contemplates escape. Or is he already dead?

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2001
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An Aussie negotiator tries to broker the release of a kidnapped engineer.
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Director: Taylor Hackford

Writer: Tony Gilroy

Starring: Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, David Morse, Pamela Reed, David Caruso, Anthony Head, Stanley Anderson, Pamela Reed

Year: 2000

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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