Mixed or average reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. 75
    As a thriller, The Recruit is merely an entertaining ride. But remember: Nothing is what it seems. It's the subtext -- two actors from different generations faking each other out with skill and affection -- that counts.
  2. Probably better than anyone else working today, Donaldson knows how to knit a thriller. Each time you think this taut yarn is about to unravel, that's when he pulls the wool over your eyes.
  3. Reviewed by: Carla Meyer
    A labyrinthine brain twister.
  4. 63
    It's the kind of movie you can sit back and enjoy, as long as you don't make the mistake of thinking too much.
  5. It suddenly morphs into one more overly slick, empty show.
  6. 63
    The sort of movie you enjoy much more while you're watching it in the theater than when you're deconstructing it on the way home.
  7. 63
    May have a storyline as generic as its title, but in the explosive Pacino and the smoldering Farrell (who nearly stole "Minority Report" from Tom Cruise), it has a pair of stars who are not as easily dismissed.
  8. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Pacino, thankfully, is on-screen enough to keep this stew on a solid low boil.
  9. 63
    There's nothing excessively problematical with The Recruit that excising the final fifteen minutes wouldn't cure.
  10. 63
    By contemporary standards, The Recruit is a halfway decent spy melodrama -- at least to the halfway point.
  11. The first half packs some clever surprises, but eventually you'll wish you'd signed up with another movie.
  12. 60
    Spare, sleek and coolly entertaining, even if there's less to this game of true lies than meets the eye.
  13. Reviewed by: Kevin Carr
    There are glimpses of a real actor struggling to get out of Pacino, although they are rare. It’s as if Pacino is dying to act, but he’s either too old or director Roger Donaldson just isn’t allowing him to do it.
  14. The pleasure of watching two alpha males -– Al Pacino and Colin Farrell -– circling each other mano a mano substantially beefs up this otherwise routine spy thriller.
  15. From the get-go, The Recruit is one of those thrillers that delights in pulling the rug out from under you, only to find another rug below that.
  16. It's just never as gripping as it needs to be.
  17. 70
    Visibly uninspired, Pacino gives a perfunctory performance -- though surely he must have looked over at Farrell and been reminded of himself 30 years ago, all jacked-up and beautiful, like a stallion at the gate.
  18. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    The whole picture may be hokey, but the first part is agreeably so, the second part not. At the very least, one comes away with a new appreciation of the difficulty of inner-office romance at the CIA.
  19. 60
    Just the latest forgettable thriller that might have been enjoyable if only its conclusion lived up to its windup.
  20. 60
    But by the end the audience, along with Clayton, has been jerked around so many times that it's almost too exhausting...By then, it's almost impossible to care.
  21. No matter how seriously everyone works to make the CIA impossibly sexy, the illusion that these pencil pushers are incarnations of Bond, James Bond, is difficult to sustain.
  22. Like Christopher Walken or Marlon Brando, Mr. Pacino frequently uses his gifts to make mediocre movies more interesting. Everything else in The Recruit may be tiresomely predictable, but he, at least, is not.
  23. 50
    Donaldson and his battery of screenwriters aim for nothing more than a coolly efficient thrill machine, but the mechanics break down in the end, foiled by a "whodunit" twist that's telegraphed early in the first reel. Careening forward without any real purpose, the film simply flies off the rails.
  24. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The Recruit is like vaudeville night at Bellevue.
  25. It's nothing but style and noise, threadbare of content, empty of ideas. Is it anything? Not really.
  26. Cliché-density aside, Roger Donaldson's perfectly rote movie is childishly naive about the reality of the CIA as it stands in the official record and in the public mindset.
  27. So much is so good about The Recruit that you'll wish the ending were better. It's like opening the last lid in a Chinese box and having a clown figure pop out on a spring.
  28. One of many small reasons to like The Recruit is that it pays homage to Kurt Vonnegut, a forgotten old lion of literature.
  29. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    A less-than-middling melodrama whose subject matter and talent never click as much as its credits portend.
  30. 50
    For the most part it's a completely ordinary, completely familiar, professionally executed film. Nothing truly awful, but nothing unexpected, either.
  31. Compelling, if throwaway, drama.
  32. 60
    It milks the characters' father-son relationship for drama without making the fairly obvious connection to the agency's paternalistic view of the world.
  33. For most of this movie, things are exactly what they seem--mediocre.
  34. Al Pacino is his own venue as yet another flamboyant, self-ironic, self-dramatizing, self-parodying, self-selfing quasi-Mephistopheles. His performance isn't very good, but it's big.
  35. 40
    The Recruit is quick and tense, and some of it is fun, but I didn't believe a single thing in it, and the over-all effect of the movie is to make one depressed that the Christmas "art" season is over. [27 January 2003, p. 94]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 37 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 10
  2. Negative: 3 out of 10
  1. Jan 3, 2015
    Who is a friend, a who is a foe? What is the truth, and what a lie? Whom can you trust, and is any of this truly real? Colin Farrell and AlWho is a friend, a who is a foe? What is the truth, and what a lie? Whom can you trust, and is any of this truly real? Colin Farrell and Al Pacino make a perfect duo with an unstable balance between each other, even if they are a teacher and a student of sorts. And when things get tricky, can you really suspect the one who is supposed to be your guiding line? Oh the places where blind trust can lead you... Full Review »
  2. Aug 16, 2014
    The Recruit is one of those thrillers that thinks it's so much smarter than it is, and tries to confuse and trick you by making you thinkThe Recruit is one of those thrillers that thinks it's so much smarter than it is, and tries to confuse and trick you by making you think "nothing is what it seems" and such, even though the whole thing just doesn't make any sense. This is an age-old movie trick that is getting tired. Just because a movie is complicated and vague, does not mean it's a good movie. This one tries to be as good as a Bourne movie, but the thrills and visceral performances just aren't there. Even Pacino looks bored!

    The one plus of the movie is that it is interesting to see the training involved in becoming a CIA employee. this part of the movie kept me engaged the whole time, even if the rest of it felt like a generic Hollywood spy thriller.
    Full Review »
  3. Oct 14, 2011
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. I don't understand why you people don't like this film. I personally think that it is amazing, and also is you take a look at the other films that are released that year, it make it even better. Full Review »