DVD - Image A Sound A Extras B-
BD - Image B Sound A Extras B-
starring Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht
screenplay by Roger Towne and Kurt Wimmer and Mitch Glazer
directed by Roger Donaldson
by Walter Chaw Aussie director Roger Donaldson's No Way Out is one of the better Cold War paranoia films: sexy, tricky, and packed with the sort of performances (from Kevin Costner, Sean Young, Gene Hackman, and Will Patton) that spin gold from proverbial straw. Donaldson's The Recruit is another derivative post-Cold War knockoff: boring, predictable, and laden with the sort of hackneyed turns that are not only immanently forgettable, but also doomed to eventually be left off the resumé during those Academy clip retrospectives. What a difference sixteen years makes.
James (Colin Farrell) is a hotshot MIT grad hoping to get picked up by a white-collar blue-chipper when he's recruited, instead, by veteran spook Walter Burke (Al Pacino). Spy Game with brunette instead of blonde studs, The Recruit suggests that the CIA is a little like a reality-testing funhouse: a discursive series of inward-collapsing machinations like one might have found once upon a time in Fincher's The Game. One such "trust no one" task involves picking up a girl at a bar--James gets Layla (Bridget Moynahan, the Julia Roberts to James's Sam Rockwell), a woman so lovely and given to suspicious coyness that there's never any question as to the redness of her herring.
Pacino offers a reprise of his "hooyah" sleepwalk from Scent of a Woman and his grand fiend from The Devil's Advocate while Farrell, all sad eyes and untapped potential, continues to pay his dues before actually making a film worth a damn. The first half of The Recruit is invested with a kind of cheerful energy that entertains without offering the sort of involvement necessary for the second half's tepid convolutions. Unfortunately all build-up and no payoff, The Recruit is exactly the kind of big budget misfire that finds its way into theatres this time of year: too expensive to go direct to video, too boring to compete with the pyrotechnics of the summer season, and too awful to take up space anytime else. Two acts in search of a third, The Recruit is an exercise in detachment and cynicism--a series of formulas bundled up in a snazzy package, just marking time. Originally published: January 31, 2003.
by Bill Chambers Now that's a coupon: The Recruit DVD comes packaged with a $200 rebate offer for Tutima's "Classic Chronograph" watch, i.e., the one Al Pacino wears in the film. Slick compensation for a transfer bound to enrage purists: As the press and liner notes specify, director Roger Donaldson insisted on a 1.77:1 aspect ratio for the (THX-certified) DVD presentation of this Super35 production, which was shown theatrically in 2.35:1. Given that The Recruit does not have a 'scope negative, the image betrays no signs of either cropping or panning-and-scanning, and compositions retain surface integrity with the additional vertical screen information. Colour, contrast, and detail are superior (Buena Vista's at the top of their game right now), and the sound--in similarly configured Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes--is dynamic, if short on expansiveness. The disc contains some of the loudest gunshots I've ever heard, and they thwack a little harder in DTS.
Donaldson and Colin Farrell team up for commentary over the film and a set of deleted scenes. The latter's brogue can be inscrutable, but he delivers a good time, and if there's one thing we take from the track(s), it's that he can have fun anywhere: Farrell professes love for Toronto (where the film was shot, and where he's currently shooting A Home at the End of the World), cheap motels, MIT, even the recording booth ("I can't say a word--I'm so engrossed!"). Blessedly, the pair waits until the end credits to dish out the majority of their praise for the cast and crew, leaving the yakker unclogged by home-movie adulations. Two asides: Farrell's stronger expletives are bleeped (one assumes because The Recruit is rated PG-13), and three of the four elisions (all in 2.35:1, by the by) involve, curiously, the consumption of alcohol. "Spy School: Inside the CIA" (16 mins.) interviews technical advisor Chase Brandon, who says the film is relatively faithful to the curriculum of agents-in-training and states in no uncertain terms that you get into the CIA by being a sociopath. An intriguing featurette, to say the least. Trailers for The Hot Chick, Shanghai Knights, and Bringing Down the House cue up when you insert the disc. Originally published: April 7, 2003.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers One wonders whether director Roger Donaldson changed his mind or his original mandate was simply ignored, but on Blu-ray The Recruit is at last presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. (Certainly in 16x9, 2.35:1 is basically the equivalent of 1.77:1 on a 4:3 set.) Be that as it may, the transfer--at once overfiltered and overenhanced--looks to have been sourced from the same master as the DVD (which I previously overrated). Blame it on tunnel-visioned George Lucas, whose THX certification program, instead of future-readying titles like this, merely tried to overcompensate for the shittiness of CRT displays. All that analog junk just becomes more acute in the HiDef realm, but by the same token I can understand Buena Vista not wanting to spring for a remaster--this is The Recruit, after all. And at the very least, the image suffers from fewer problems than does Con Air on the same format. As for da noise, while I can't comment on the 24-bit PCM uncompressed audio, the DD 5.1 (640 kbps) option is on a par with the DTS track of the DVD. Extras are the same as before, with trailers for Wall-E, Step up 2: The Streets, and the upcoming The Nightmare Before Christmas BD cuing up on startup. Originally published: June 2, 2008.