A rather insular spook procedural that hardly ever leaves the Langley suburbs, The Recruit weighs in like a porous brick of recycled polypropylene—everything from Spy Game and The Devil’s Advocate to every sub-Le Carré spy knickknack factoried out since 1965 has been dumped into the presser. In-movies-only Studly Computer Geek Colin Farrell is reluctantly recruited into secret service by Manipulative Power Broker in a Mephisto Beard Al Pacino, because the haunted youngster needs to find out how his father Mysteriously Died. Cue Suspicious Brooding. More fustian than Faustian, Farrell’s deal with federal service is showered with pseudo-mystical fart-noises about the spy biz’s super-human observational requirements and the guy’s own innate talents, which are In His Blood. Of course, Nothing Is As It Seems, particularly Farrell’s duplicitous training-farm squeeze, embodied by leggy-model-posing-as-human Bridget Moynahan.
Cliché-density aside, Roger Donaldson’s perfectly rote movie is childishly naive about the reality of the CIA as it stands in the official record and in the public mindset—pronouncements about our Good and their Evil, spouted by Pacino with his patent-pending sardonic glower, are PR myths a fifth-grader would’ve chuckled over in 1975. Even so, after decades of failures, plus advances in surveillance technology, old-school espionage is hardly a pertinent social fantasy anymore; in his way, Chuck Barris represents a more telling G-man paradigm.
The insults continue with one of modern movies’ most idiotic macguffin (a power-grid-freezing virus that can enter the system through a wall socket), an utterly pointless car chase, and the failure to ironize the rich idea of two lovers planting bugs on each other. The Recruit‘s final point, it seems, is that the CIA doesn’t pay very well—a detail about which, if it’s true, we might at least feel grateful.
This year’s LaCinemaFe, showcasing recent Latin films, is a haphazard hurricane of work from three continents, notable for Ventura Pons’s Amigo Amado, Argentine musician Fito Paéz’s controversial Vidas Privadas (starring Gael García Bernal and Mrs. Paéz, Cecilia Roth), and When We Were Kings documentarian Leon Gast’s 1976 film Salsa. Otherwise, no Ripstein or de la Iglesia emerges; both Alberto Lecchi’s Argentine gay-masquerade comedy Apariencias (2000) and Ricardo Farfán’s bouncy Chilean road movie Negocio Redondo (2001) are pandering, store-brand Hollywood toss-offs. Fernando León de Aranoa’s documentary Caminantes (2002) offers an unadventurous but empathetic view of a small Mexican Indian village and its welcome to the Zapatista protest “walkers” of 2001, which is light years ahead of Alexander Stocker’s Cat’s Cradle (2001), a vile, public-access-level video diatribe about thrill-seeking Brazilian punks that climaxes, more or less, with a glibly shot rape-murder. Of the films screened, only Gustavo Postiglione’s El Cumple (2002) displayed any recognizable moviemaking intelligence. A rough video document of a lavish birthday party that is both less daring and less clichéd than The Celebration, Postiglione’s movie examines the inevitable social striptease without unnecessary melodrama or theatrics, revealing only ordinary bitterness.