The Recruit

The Recruit


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

When you hear these words, "We believe in good and evil, right and wrong; our cause is just," do you think of George W and wince? The man talking is Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a recruiter/ trainer for the CIA and everyone knows what they are capable of, not only regime change, but political assassinations and illegal activities of every kind.

The gung ho Americana message, underlying a tricksy thriller that disappears up its own orifice, leaves a sour taste. What is essentially a boot camp movie, like Tigerland, Colin Farrell's Hollywood debut, The Recruit concerns itself with a harsh training regime, in which the catchphrase, "Nothing is what it seems", enables the scriptwriters to fool around with smoke and mirrors.

Copy picture

James Clayton (Farrell) is a cocky computer whiz, who is headhunted by Burke and brought into the programme. His father may, or may not, have been killed in the line of duty during a CIA operation in South America 10 years earlier. "Our failures are known," Burke tells his students. "Our successes are not."

Clayton is a rebel by nature. He wears T-shirts and a designer stubble and is always two steps ahead of himself. He doesn't have to do much, except sweat, look sexy and tear the girl's clothes off when the time comes. The girl (Bridget Moynahan) is a fellow candidate at The Farm, where prospective agents are brainwashed into becoming machines of the state. She is suspected of being a mole for an anti-American organisation and Clayton is put on her case, which he's glad to do until his emotions compromise his ability to do the job. James Bond knows all about this, but the difference between the two is a question of style. Clayton doesn't drink Martinis, drive an Aston Martin or play baccarat.

Eventually the plot implodes. Pacino plays Burke in his sleep. As the all-knowing master of ceremonies, whose insider information is as extensive as his ability to dazzle romantics with patriotic rhubarb, he's still wearing Armani and he's still in black.

This should be Farrell's springboard to the A-list, but the film isn't strong enough to hold his weight. Is he the next Hugh Jackman, or the new Russell Crowe? He would say, "I'm the first Colin Farrell." Cocky, or what?

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2003
Share this with others on...
The Recruit packshot
Al Pacino trains Colin Farrell to be a CIA agent.
Amazon link

Director: Roger Donaldson

Writer: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer

Starring: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Mike Realba, Dom Fiore, Karl Pruner

Year: 2003

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Guardian