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Proof of Life

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Proof of Life

Starring: Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe
Director: Taylor Hackford
Rated: R
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genres: Action, Romance, Suspense

*Also starring: David Caruso, David Morse, Pamela Reed, Alun Armstrong, Michael Kitchen, Mario Ernesto Sanchez

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

If you're a filmmaker looking for a star for your next action picture, there isn't any better choice today than Russell Crowe (GLADIATOR), the star of Taylor Hackford's PROOF OF LIFE. He exudes a controlled intensity that always seems just below the boiling point. Bringing intelligence and quiet charisma to his parts, he adds something special that isn't flashy but isn't subtle either.

Crowe's costar in PROOF OF LIFE is Meg Ryan, to whom he has been linked romantically in real life. In the movie, in which there is supposed to be romantic sparks, the chemistry between Crowe and Ryan is as dead as a campfire extinguished a week ago. Ryan, who has been terrific in a wide variety of roles from WHEN HARRY MEET SALLY... to COURAGE UNDER FIRE, never finds the right tone this time. Employing a very limited emotional range, she spends much of the movie glassy-eyed, holding, but not smoking, a lit cigarette, as if it were some sort of fashion statement. Her character, Alice Bowman, is called a "little hippie" by her husband, Peter (David Morse), but she poses and acts more like an ex-fashion model.

The story is about K and R (kidnap and ransom) negotiators. With jobs that make Kevin Spacey's in THE NEGOTIATOR look like a tea party in comparison, K and R negotiators specialize in executive kidnap cases, in which they negotiate the ransom with the kidnappers, usually third world rebels. We learn that paying what the rebels ask is like trying to eradicate the gophers in your backyard by sticking a hose in one of their holes and trying to drown them. Yield entirely to the kidnapper's demands and your "final" payments keep getting turned into down payments, forever delaying the release of the victim. So long as you get the right proof of life -- a photo of the victim holding a recent newspaper being popular -- and find just the right price point, you can get your client freed in a matter of mere months.

Much of the story involves endless haggling over the price between Terry Thorne (Crowe) and the South American rebels who have kidnapped Peter. Unless you're a car dealer by trade, you're likely to find that this part becomes tedious. The first two-thirds of the film stays in low gear as the negotiations drone on. Eventually, the movie is transformed into quite a credible and satisfying action picture, in which Terry's old sidekick, Dino (David Caruso), joins him in the fun.

"Things don't happen for a reason," Alice tells Terry. "They just happen." Tony Gilroy's script is like that. Although it throws out some interesting ideas, it has trouble fashioning them into a compelling thriller. But, all is not lost. The movie does prominently feature Russell Crowe.

PROOF OF LIFE runs 2:15. It is rated R for violence, language and some drug material and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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