Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Is The Recruit good? Not really. Did I have a good time watching it? You bet your ass I did. Rob, you and I have been chatting about this movie over text and I’m sorry for that a little because I think it might deflate some of our comments here, but this is prime Two For The Money-esque goofy studio Pacino right here and I couldn’t wait to start talking about this movie with you. The most interesting aspect to me this time around was that I now really enjoy The Recruit even though I didn’t in its original release. I think some of that had to do with my 2003 resistance to rising star Colin Farrell (in ensuing years, I’ve become a big fan of his) but now I can see how much detail he brings between the lines of the script to a character like James Clayton. The Recruit is also a perfect example of how an entertaining movie can be made out of a silly script by the sheer will and professionalism of a talented director and capable actors. Plus, I’m in a big late ‘90s-early ‘00s nostalgia period right now. Combine all of that and I don’t know how I don’t already own The Recruit on multiple formats.
The Devil’s Advocate, Scent of a Woman, etc.) while overcoming (or in some cases, succumbing to) his own personal demons. He stalks along the edges of the film, dropping in to give exposition with a burst of charisma and life, turning the Cocky Upstart’s world on its head once every fifteen minutes before completely stealing the show in the climactic moments. In short, The Recruit is why we write this column. Pacino is in a groove here, and director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days, Dante’s Peak) knows exactly how to use him. There are so many Pacinoisms we need to get into (“The most important thing you need to know is that you don’t know shit!” “Who knows? The shadow knows!”), but I’ll end my initial thoughts by pointing out how in love I am with the movie’s early '00s aesthetic: Post-grunge soundtrack! Dutch angles! Short lenses! Washed-out cinematography! Meaningless typing on keyboards! Colin Farrell’s American accent! Amazon has this Blu for $9! NINE DOLLARS! That’s a steal at twice the price.
Adam: OMG. I love movies where no one uses a mouse or scrolls and everything is solved by punching keys. Like, even when they turn on their laptop they are just punching keys. Let’s start at the beginning. I am immediately in love with this movie because Colin Farrell is late for the MIT job fair (rebel) but swoops in at the last minute to save the day with the recruiter from Dell by hacking all of the monitors at the job fair. I love the ADR of the guy who shouts you “Who is this guy?” when Farrell shows up on every monitor instead of freaking out about his system being hacked. First, he needs to know WHO THIS GUY IS!!! Pacino is just watching technology in the shadows, and that factors in later because he’ll need technology later to carry out a plan I will sidestep to avoid spoilers. We talked about this already, but I was so baffled why the top student at MIT (which Farrell is said to be) would need to be at a job fair. And why would he ever work for Dell? And why would Dell need Farrell’s hacker tech at that stage in the company’s history? All of that aside, I love these early sequences where an older person blows sunshine up the ass of a younger person and recruits them for something. Just once I want to be recruited by someone. I’ve always had to work for everything. It must feel nice to be recruited. I know I have to be careful, though. That’s how we lost Anakin.
Rob: I love it. Apparently, the CIA training program consists of recruitment, initiation, “Remember your training,” and then a series of trips to seafood restaurants and local bars to pick up coeds (more on that in a minute; we have to talk about Clayton’s boss at Langley).
Rob: We’re avoiding spoilers here, but didn’t it seem strange to Clayton that he kept failing upward? Then again, I love the way The Recruit plays that “trust no one” spy stuff, especially between Clayton and Layla. I was genuinely invested in their cat and mouse game for that middle twenty minutes in which they actually play it. Then again, the sequence in which Clayton gets “revenge” on Layla for her deception during their opp (“the opp” being a phrase repeated over and over in The Recruit) has not aged well at all. He essentially forces her (in front of coworkers and management) to admit that she wants to fuck him. Where’s HR?
I also loved how often we’d cut to shots of Pacino sitting on a couch, eating potato chips and watching intimate exchanges between Layla and Clayton. I kept imagining an exaggerated series of cuts showing everyone watching everyone: Clayton watching Layla, Pacino watching Clayton, the audience watching Pacino, Gene Hackman watching us watching Pacino...until it loops all the way back around to Layla watching Clayton. Remember: Nothing is what is seems!
Speaking of Layla, what did you think of Bridget Moynahan?
Rob: No, the plan doesn’t hang together in the slightest, but the film manages to get away with it by keeping Clayton’s character and motivations as clear as possible. We’re not giving too much away, but he has a moment of realization late in the film in which the plot’s convoluted nature actually becomes an important “aha moment” that clues him into how he’s going to proceed. For me, that was enough, even if the villain seemed to take the longest, most roundabout path toward their goal. Did they even need Clayton? The film justifies his involvement with some backstory, but there’s another character who might have been more effective. I love that we’re trying hard not to spoil this one because we genuinely want people to watch it.
Adam: You hit the nail on the head when you said it’s such a roundabout plan. I think Clayton is needed to function as an alibi (ooooh, spoilers how I avoid thee) but then again, it’s shit luck for the bad guy or girl that Clayton rules at everything he does.
Rob: And it leads to what is, for my money, Pacino’s best line in the movie.
Adam: You should see Two for the Money. There are two lines for your money in that one. There’s so much I want to dig into, but it would give away the resolution of the movie so I’ll sidestep to something else I loved in The Recruit. It’s when Colin Farrell has a data entry CIA job as a cover for being a non-official cover operative and we meet his supervisor, who is every IT middle manager I have ever met in my life. I’ve worked all but one year of my career in IT companies and this type of supervisor is dangerous because they are motivation killers. I just expected Farrell to tell Pacino “You know what? I don’t want to be a spy all that much anymore. On my team, we have Margarita Mondays, we hit on ‘03 Republican girls, I never get shot at, I get to go home at 5pm, no work on the weekends. Sweet gig!” Then the film would close with Spoon’s “The Underdog” playing as Farrell breaks the fourth wall and says “So I guess you could say it all worked out.” Do you want to get into our dream of turning The Recruit into a CIA academy sex comedy called The NOC and the NOC-Out, where Pacino is the bong-hitting instructor? Can’t you just see the end of trailer sting where they use the moment when Pacino is taking the lie detector test and he’s asked if he’s ever worn women’s clothing? Insert record scratch.
Adam: I love that show and I dig The Recruit. Funnily enough, I pictured The NOC and the NOC-Out in the same ilk as Out Cold, complete with Buckcherry and Puddle of Mudd on the soundtrack. What do you want to review next week?
Rob: I think it’s time for us to swing for the fences again. Let’s talk Rookie of the Year, starring one of your favorite actors playing for one of your favorite teams!
Adam: The best movie Daniel Stern ever directed. Until next time.
Rob: These seats are reserved.