| **1/2 Stars
Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, David Caruso
Directed byTaylor Hackford
Writing credits: Tony Gilroy
Warner Bros. * 110 minutes
Really, however, PROOF OF LIFE must be judged by its cinematic quality. And on that meta-level, this film, about the rescue of a kidnapped architect in South America, is merely so-so, a treat for the growing number of Crowe-philes but one that won't completely satisfy a more discriminating viewer.
There's a really good movie buried somewhere inside PROOF OF LIFE, but director Taylor Hackford isn't able to unearth it. Hackford, who rose to prominence in the 1980's with a trio of offbeat romances (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN, AGAINST ALL ODDS, and WHITE NIGHTS) has spent the last decade making promising ideas into lackluster movies (DOLORES CLAIBORNE, THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE). PROOF OF LIFE is like many of Hackford's films it begins with an interesting premise, but suffers a painfully slow exposition and a weak second act. However, like many of his films, PROOF OF LIFE crackles, sputters, and starts up finally in the last half of the movie, and builds to a triumphant ending one that almost makes you forget the yawn-inducing first act.
Meg Ryan plays Alice Bowman, a third-world humanitarian who has recently located to South America with her husband, Peter (David Morse). Peter is there to build a dam nearby, one that has political ramifications for both the local, impoverished community and Peter's rich, bureaucratic employer, who wants to build a pipeline through the area. A group of guerillas kidnap Peter and demand a ransom. That's when an international expert is brought in to handle the situation, Terry Thorne (Crowe). As he navigates the precarious situation that holds Peter's life in the balance, Terry finds himself attracted to Alice. It's a love triangle with Sandinistas in the middle.
script, based on a Vanity Fair article and written by Tony Gilroy
and William Prochnau, has great potential as both a love story and an
action film qualities that undoubtedly drew Crowe and Ryan to the
project. However, the script takes an extraordinary amount of time (almost
90 minutes) to set up the premise. It often stops to explain things that
are already in evidence, including unnecessary explanation of how tenuous
hostage negotiation is. Is there anyone in the world who thinks this is
a walk in the park?
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