“The Recruit” is, thankfully, a rare thing. It is a movie that inspires almost no feelings whatsoever in some scenes, mild interest in others. The overall impact is that of having watched something benign and inoffensive, of having spent two hours with nothing good or bad to show for it.
The film, a rather ordinary espionage thriller, benefits from charismatic performances by Colin Farrell and Al Pacino, though. Pacino plays Walter Burke, a long-time CIA trainer with typical Pacino swagger and bravado who recruits a Boston computer hotshot named James Clayton (Farrell) into the agency.
We don’t know much about James except that he’s brilliant with computers and always has a two-growth of beard, including, one assumes, immediately after he has shaved (just like Homer Simpson). Maybe he lives alone, maybe he doesn’t; in the first scene, he hollers for someone to answer the phone because he’s in bed, but there is never any subsequent mention of friends, family or loved ones.
At any rate, his father died in a plane crash years ago, and Burke implies it was CIA-related. Do not get attached to this plot thread, though, because it is under-utilized for the rest of the film.
Training is full of the usual sort of mind games you expect in a film like this, as well the traditional James Bond-style high-tech gadgetry. Then, finally, an hour into the film, we get to the real story, which has James trying to sniff out a mole within the organization.
Bridget Moynihan is sexy indeed as James’ fellow spy trainee and tentative love interest. Farrell, an interesting young actor, has sufficient charm to keep people watching even when nothing exciting is happening, and we all know about Pacino’s magnetism.
Directed by Roger Donaldson (“Thirteen Days,” “Dante’s Peak”), “The Recruit” has a few thrilling moments but no real unforeseen twists, plot-wise. It meets basic expectations — it is not dull and it is not difficult to watch — but it does nothing to exceed them.
C+ (1 hr., 55 min.; )