film review: The Recruit ***

There’s nothing like a big dumb action film to make going to the movies fun again. The Recruit oozes with the slick characters and cool chases that made Enemy of the State so entertaining, and the result is the top box office spot in its opening weekend. The Recruit stars Colin Farrell (Minority Report) and Al Pacino in a mentor/student relationship that’s been filmed a billion times.

In the middle of The Recruit, I asked myself why I was enjoying it so much. The acting is good for the kind of movie it is, and the camerawork and sets are cool. However, I knew the ending months before the movie came out, since the trailers all too clearly identified the villain.

The Recruit can best be described as a spy thriller for 15-year-old boys of all ages. Farrell is perfect in his role as James Clayton (Will Smith in Enemy of the State was Robert Clayton Dean), and Al Pacino is believable as CIA recruiter Walter Burke.

The movie starts with Burke recruiting Clayton, a 20-something computer nerd from MIT. Clayton comes to a CIA training facility, called “the farm.” At the farm, Clayton meets Layla (Bridget Moynahan), a fellow recruit who rejects him at first, only to finally give in to his irresistible charm.

For the majority of the film, Clayton is shown in his training and in his relationships with Layla and Burke. There’s a side plot between Clayton and Burke involving Clayton’s disappeared father, who may or may not have once worked with Burke.

Despite the clichEd plot, The Recruit does manage to have some surprises. Even the ending is somehow both predictable and surprising at the same time.

Director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days) has a flashy style that’s perfect for a movie like The Recruit. Farrell settles nicely into the role of a normal guy with save-the-world problems. He’s well on his way to becoming the next Tom Cruise – an actor who can easily shift from action hero to a dramatic or romantic role.

The Recruit will have its audience feeling satisfied when leaving the theater. The plot, despite its many twists and turns, is not hard to follow. The scenery and dialogue are smooth enough to make every moment fun, with just enough action to keep the audience on its toes without being overwhelming.

This is an excellent popcorn movie, the kind that guys can watch over and over again on TBS and still be entertained by. Of course, the predictability and the plot, which seems to combine every spy movie from the last 10 years, will probably insult the intelligence of select moviegoers.

Obviously, this picture won’t find inclusion on “Best Of” lists or win many awards, but perhaps the best thing that can be said is that a full theater seemed involved in it all the way through. From the little humorous moments that drew nice laughs to the heart-pounding chase scenes, The Recruit kept people interested, something that few movies have been able to do recently.

Shawn Wines can be reached at