Review Date: January 29, 2003
Director: Roger Donaldson
Writer: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer
Producers: Jeff Apple, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum
Al Pacino as Walter Burke
Colin Farrell as James Clayton
Bridget Moynahan as Layla
A good-looking computer geek (yeah, there's one of those around every corner...in the movies!) is recruited by a top CIA dog to join his team of covert operatives. In order to evaluate his full potential, he is put through a "farm" training test, along with a number of other candidates. In the end, the recruit and his mentor must decide whether or not he's ready to take it to the next level... real life undercover work or more tests? Pacino ensues.
A decent spy training flick with plenty of intriguing situations during its buildup and charisma from its lead actors to forgive an ending which simply isn't special or convincing. About three-quarters of the way through this movie I was hoping that the conclusion wouldn't fly off into left field or come across as extremely far-fetched, but unfortunately it did. Luckily for me, it didn't take everything away from the impressively orchestrated setup before it. Credit should also go out to the "man of the hour", Colin Farrell, who once more offers up a solid appearance as the rookie in the "company", and Pacino, who despite regressing to a little of his "hoo-haa!" acting days, continues to hold one's attention whenever on screen. Some of my favorite one-liners from the goof in this film included "I pity the fool" (while Farrell is boxing), "My dick's on fire" and "You've got booze coming out of your bones!" (which I just gotta use on the Arrow) Moynahan was also cute and delivered in performance, but like many of her unfortunate Hollywood starlet peers, is also starting to resemble a celery stick (a la Ashley Judd, Brittany Murphy, etc...). Girls...it's ugly...put some weight on for crap's sakes! The film also does a great job of establishing its premise pretty quickly with a decent pace as it moves through the entire "training" portion of the picture. Its second half is not as engaging though and while there are a couple of typical "action" scenes, most of the action in this flick happens between the ears and eyes of the performers. If a full-blown action movie is what you're looking for: this ain't it.
The suspense is also well handled in most of the scenes and despite not completely "buying" into the relationship established between Farrell and Moynahan, I will say that they had enough chemistry for me to tag along for the most part. But then the ending comes along and...poof! I just didn't buy it. To boot, the perpetrator behind all of the shenanigans is one of those assholes who spends 10 minutes explaining every bit of his reasonings to us, which gives everyone in the audience just enough time to figure out that it simply doesn't make much sense. I won't spill the beans on any of the specifics here, but it basically left me with a zillion other questions, many of which had very few realistic answers. Other than that, I will say that the movie did feature some pretty cool insight into the CIA and its covert training procedures (I love shit like that) and kept me glued to the screen for the most part, despite its close to 2-hour runtime. This film isn't going to win any "Nailbiter of the Year" awards or be considered a "classic" anytime soon, but if you dig on stuff like SPY GAME and ENEMY OF THE STATE, chances are that you'll also have a decent time watching Al Pacino playing with Colin Farrell's head for two hours. Huh?!? PS: To the screenwriters, a lesson for the next time you want the audience to be surprised by your film...stop having the characters say "Nothing is as it seems" every other minute. We get it already.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian