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Overall Rating
3.45

Awesome: 10.39%
Worth A Look41.56%
Just Average: 33.77%
Pretty Crappy: 11.69%
Sucks: 2.6%

6 reviews, 41 user ratings


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Proof of Life
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by Erik Childress

"'Life' Only Missing Proof of Love"
4 stars

How often does Russell Crowe read Vanity Fair magazine? If he doesnít then his agent does, because this is the second film based on an article from that publication that Crowe has embarked upon in as many years. The first was The Insider and now Proof of Life has been derived from ďAdventures in the Ransom Trade.Ē Perhaps I should start reading V.F. more often because it seems to inspire some pretty good stories.

Crowe plays Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), a former soldier, who now works for an organization that specializes in ďK & RĒ (Kidnap & Ransom). Not for local cases involving missing children but for the kind of international incidents that involves American businessmen and VIPs. Their latest client is an oil company faced with the abduction of Peter Bowman (David Morse), who is working on getting a dam built in South America. Peterís wife, Alice (Meg Ryan), loves him but is frankly tired of globe jumping in his pursuit to make the world a better place. That love will be tested when Peter is randomly taken by the terrorist group known as the ELT.

Thus, the negotiations begin with money, conscience and oneís own sanity. As Peter is treated to the harsh accommodations of the mountains, bad weather and foot injuries that would make John McClane wince, Thorne is subject to his on-again/off-again involvement with the case. (Peterís company let their kidnapping insurance lapse.) But Aliceís cries get the better of him and he takes it on freelance with the help of his old friend and competitor, Dino (David Caruso).

When the film concentrates on the logistics of getting their guys out (which is often), we experience a refreshingly well-thought out drama that rises above the normal ransom drops and phone taps weíre used to. The captors arenít reduced to a brand of surprise mystery villain, but as soldiers under command looking for the anonymous ransom as a means to fund their activities. In many respects they are no different than any thousands of American businesses looking for mergers and inside tips on making theirs the best and most feared. Even ransom has now become big business with wealthy insurance companies hiring ex-military advisors to protect their investment and get the job done.

Yet at the heart of the story are people, moving around like chessboard pawns. Peter is a cog in the corporate wheel that truly cares about what he accomplishes with his job, but keeps part of himself distant from his wife. Alice, having just spilled her feelings all over the house the night before Peterís abduction, must come to terms with how much she really loves her husband now that sheís faced with losing him forever. And in the middle is Terry, trying to get these two back together while, perhaps, beginning to understand what Peter sees in Alice.

Itís this aspect of the film thatís mishandled. So much so, that if the publicity machine wasnít playing up the Crowe/Ryan romance in-and-out of character, it practically sneaks up on you. Not that thereís a problem with filtering out a possible attraction between the negotiator and the victimís wife. The old adage of hostages becoming attached to their captives is a classic plot point in both fiction and reality. Alice becomes a captive herself, wading through months of arbitration and markdowns with no end in sight. (A sequence cutting between Peter and Alice telling truths to their newfound confidants is particularly captivating.) So itís only natural for that kind of storyline to eventually show up. It just needs to be exchanged with a little more than a few fleeting appreciative smiles and candle sharing. So when the stolen kiss is finally thrust upon the audience (and Ryan), it comes off as out-of-place and silly and adds an unnecessary element just as things are about to start wrapping up. The final minutes of the film even suggest the possibility of a more drawn-out (and excised) romantic subplot where a silent lonely gaze from Crowe could have had real power.

Underappreciated director Taylor Hackford (The Devilís Advocate) keeps the story moving so briskly that I was shocked to discover the 135-minute running time afterwards. He also opens and closes Proof of Life with a pair of really well-filmed action sequences that could have been by-the-number Rambo/Commando heroics, but do more than just ante up the excitement with careful camera placements and first-rate choreography. His directorial presence though makes the incomplete romance all the more disappointing consider his track record of superior love stories like An Officer and a Gentleman & Against All Odds.

Performances are also strong with Russell Crowe in another first-rate turn as Thorne. He projects such a naturally serious tone that weíre thrilled to occasionally see him smile or laugh. Meg Ryanís dramatic efforts run hot (When a Man Loves a Woman) and cold (Courage Under Fire) and here she falls somewhere right in the middle. David Morse also comes off well as a man so stubborn that he constantly challenges his captors, yet reserves enough emotional strength to convince us how deeply he wants to get back to his wife. Solid supporting turns come from Caruso (also nice to see having a little fun with his role), and Gottfried John as Peterís fellow inmate, instrumental to his survival.

Proof of Life owes itself a large debt of gratitude to Casablanca, in story if not greatness. The romantic triangle amidst political turmoil with one suitor a do-gooder and the other a lonely independent reeks obvious comparisons right up to a beautiful friendship kind of ending. Itís a well-crafted action drama with some strong centered performances that donít rely on cliches in order to bring a fresh approach to a time-tested. It could have been a well-crafted [i]romantic[/i] action drama, but I guess that element was a mere footnote in the Vanity Fair article.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4642&reviewer=198
originally posted: 12/05/00 10:23:45
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User Comments

8/01/11 Piz Action scenes carry the film. A bit long but worth the watch! 4 stars
9/19/10 Jan Patterson Grand colors. David Morse A+ David Caruso :)) I keep coming back to it. 4 stars
8/26/05 ES Ho-hum, can't say it was terrible, David Morse should have had the lead over Crowe 3 stars
11/29/03 john Russel Crowe gives a great performance - phenomenal action sequence at the end! 5 stars
6/17/03 lyn interesting....entertaining...not thought provoking...an easy watch 4 stars
6/14/03 R.W. Welch Good action sequences. The rest just gets by. 3 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Decent 3 stars
4/06/03 Francis top shelf actors either sleep walking or looking awkward 3 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Interesting, well-acted film that's overlong & only sporadically exciting. Caruso is aces! 2 stars
3/02/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik Meh. 2 stars
12/29/02 John Miskey Great action film. Definitely in my Top 10. 5 stars
7/26/02 I Can't Swim Meg should retire; she can't act worth a damn. Best here is Crowe & Caruso & Morse 4 stars
7/24/02 palaboy101 one of Russell Crowe's best 5 stars
7/11/02 KMG Russell was hot....Meg GET THE FUCK OFF CAMERA! 3 stars
4/03/02 Edfink Lombardo No screen chemistry between two stars...Underdeveloped plot elements...Morse was good 2 stars
2/04/02 Bertha Venation Meg almost ruined this, was saved by Crowe & David Morse 4 stars
2/02/02 EzGoo Pretty good movie.. liked it... 5 stars
1/31/02 Andrew Carden Good Premise Wasted In A Constroversal and Confusing Adventure. 2 stars
12/18/01 Butterbean Crowe and Ryan had no chemistry, action scenes bored me, only Russ's accent kept me awake. 1 stars
12/15/01 Jack Baker the plot was solidly given and the detailed action was enjoyable, altogether rather good 4 stars
8/06/01 MsJuniper Fab edit & dialog -feels real & smart. True to Pronau article. Glad sex scene *cut* 5 stars
7/16/01 Monday Morning I'm getting to like Russell and loathe Meg more and more each movie. 4 stars
7/09/01 Piz a one-hour story told in two-and-a-half...not terribly impressive 3 stars
7/02/01 TLsmooth Russell Crowe Good. Meg Ryan Bad. Sucks Big Donkey Dicks Bad. 2 stars
6/26/01 The Bomb 69 A shame bad publicity killed this movie, intersting look at K&R, Ryan was miscast 4 stars
3/21/01 Burchy Cool idea, boring film 2 stars
3/16/01 fahrbot A bit slow at the beginning but worth it in the end 4 stars
1/10/01 RazorDog Good movie- It moved pretty slow in some parts, but had some great action. 5 stars
1/05/01 Bonnie Grossman Had it been a rental, I would have rewound after 30 minutes. "Chemistry" is chem-misery. 2 stars
12/23/00 Lance Good movie 4 stars
12/18/00 bart Boring! Stupid! Meg cam 1 stars
12/17/00 Will I didn't hate it. Overall it was okay, but Meg just doesn't cut it. 4 stars
12/15/00 Is could use more david morse, but still thrilling and engaging 5 stars
12/13/00 jon j strong male performances, but still pretty fucking boring 3 stars
12/13/00 Jules Long and boring! 2 stars
12/11/00 Lynnaea Crowe: thoroughly enjoyable; the subject: fresh, intriguing; Caruso's cameo: amusing. 4 stars
12/11/00 Greg Cotton A really excellent movie! Fine work by all the leads and none of the usual firearms goofs! 5 stars
12/11/00 Sharon C. I truly enjoyed this movie! David Morse was great. 4 stars
12/10/00 Angus moorehead Crowe shines while Ryan should stick to romantic comedy...she is awful. 3 stars
12/09/00 Darcy Morrish I thought the trailer for Speilberg's new movie was more exciting 2 stars
12/09/00 Kohawk This movie was engaging the whole way thru. Great ending, Crowe is the new Willis 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Dec-2000

UK
  N/A

Australia
  01-Mar-2001 (M)


Directed by
  Taylor Hackford

Written by
  Tony Gilroy

Cast
  Meg Ryan
  Russell Crowe
  David Caruso
  David Morse
  Pamela Reed
  Daniel Lugo



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