A review of “The Recruit” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for violence, nudity, and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes



Colin Farrell’s hubba-hubba packaging and Al Pacino’s crackling energy go a long way towards salvaging this hyper-clichéd CIA thriller that double-crosses its way into predictable obscurity.

CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Pacino) claims to be a “scary judge of talent” when he propositions computer genius James Clayton (Farrell) at a crowded Boston bar.  His offer: a peek behind the CIA’s infamous closed doors and a shot at a career as a CIA operative.  Clayton can’t resist the challenge, and lands at the Farm – a top-secret training facility where trainees learn to deceive, exploit, detect, disguise, and surveil.

Naturally Clayton graduates first in his class and is bequeathed a truckload of snazzy spy gear.  Along the way he develops a serious attraction to a fellow operative named Layla (Bridget Moynahan), who may or may not be the innocent apprentice she claims to be.

As Clayton ponders his morality, the endless procession of stooges, and the perpetual mind-games, he simultaneously questions the cat-and-mouse ethics of Burke, and his “what the hell am I doing here” inner voice.  Burke takes full advantage of Clayton’s vulnerability, pulling him quickly up through the ranks while keeping him slightly off balance and out of the loop.

The grizzled veteran and gullible trainee routine has been done before, and done better.  Think “Training Day” and “Spy Game” as recent examples.  Just when the film should reach its feverish pitch of tension, it flatlines into predictability by virtue of the CIA’s trusty maxims “Trust No One” and “Nothing Is What It Seems”.  Repeatedly reminded to expect the unexpected, we’re forced to anticipate the story’s twists, thus killing the momentum and even the subtlest hint of surprise factor. 

The eminently watchable Farrell (chocolate brown eyes, beautiful biceps, pearly whites) maintains a dignity that lends a certain cache to the project, and his chemistry with Moynahan (lucky, lucky girl) simmers.  Pacino is no slouch in the charisma department either, though the film’s histrionic finale offers him little opportunity to ply his real skills.  Glossy visuals are a plus, and a welcome distraction.