Review: Intelligence not exactly central to "The Recruit’ |

Review: Intelligence not exactly central to "The Recruit’

Everything, Al Pacino continually reminds us in “The Recruit,” is a test. So, just for the sake of interactive fun, here’s a pop quiz to try after the movie:

– True or false: 11 years and God knows how many movies later, Al Pacino is still playing Col. Slade from “Scent of a Woman.” Hoo-ah!

– Mathematics: Upon her departure from CIA training on The Farm, how many IQ points does Layla (actress Bridget Moynahan) lose before the next scene?

– And no quiz would be complete without an essay question: Was “The Recruit” a good movie or a bad one?

Sure, the tests – physical, mental and psychological – the CIA newbies of “The Recruit” face at the hands of instructor Walter Burke (Pacino) look difficult. But none of them are as tough as that last question, because “The Recruit” is so wildly uneven it almost seems like two unrelated movies spliced together.

Certainly, there’s good in the movie, starting with Moynahan, Colin Farrell and – accent aside – Pacino. The pace is quick, its portrayal of the tricks and traps of international espionage are clever and well-executed, and it’s fun. Plus, it’s rare for a spy movie to avoid both telegraphing its plot twists and hurtling through them at “Mission: Impossible” speed, so they’re surprising rather than confusing.

But, alas, as Burke tells his recruits, spying is a dirty business full of bad people. So it’s fitting “The Recruit” has its unpleasant underbelly, too: young spies in love; Pacino’s rambling monologues; cornball dialogue and the threadbare I-must-find-out-more-about-my-father-by-following-in-his-footsteps plot.

I couldn’t help but think about a friend of mine (I’m not making this up: the valedictorian of my high school class had, like, a 4.2 GPA, scored a full scholarship to Rice – but couldn’t get a summer internship with the CIA because he failed the criminal activities section of his polygraph test). So much potential S wasted. After drawing in the audience with a promising beginning, the movie taints its good elements by accentuating its worst sins. Why bother? I asked myself, slamming the back of my head repeatedly into the seat behind me.

Everything, it seems, is a test.

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