Proof of Life (2000)

PROOF OF LIFE, not to be confused with ALOOF OF POO, is a compel-
ling-at-first, increasingly ass-dragging, South American-set kid-
napping drama that, if nothing else, opens with a nifty, one-two 
punch.  First, Russell "G'day Gladiator" Crowe rushes through a  
slam-bang, super-grimy, "extraction" sequence set somewhere in 
the Union Formerly Known as Soviet.  Chechnya, I believe.  Switch 
to Ecuador, then, for some aerial photography so absolutely awe-
some that Dick Cheney better steer clear, lest his heart leap too 
high.  There's where we meet David Morse, cast here as a leading 
man for a disarming change of pace and wearing what looks like a 
mild rug.  Ol' Sad Face plays a humanitarian engineer, American, 
with work-site problems and, worse, a strained marriage to Meg 
Ryan's recently miscarried and presently heavily drinking wife.  
After a couple scenes about town-- and underneath which bubbles a 
fine, palatable sense of dread-- hubby gets grabbed at a staged 
roadblock by the local, entrepreneurial-minded rebels.  Enter 
Crowe's no-nonsense negotiator from a firm in London.  Exposition 
ensues as the ransom process is explained, the wife and newly ar-
rived, bitchy sister-in-law (Pamela Reed) exchange hostilities, 
and Morse gets dragged higher and higher into the tropical hills.  
Basically, a lot of explaining and then a lot of waiting.  Plus 
the occasional bit of goosing action.

For the first hour, a snappy pace keeps restlessness at bay.  The 
ace actors eat our attention, too, as does the phenomenally pho-
togenic jungle-scape.  It looks like one, lush, living Hell, man, 
and I certainly thank you, Mr. Director, for bringing back the 
images.  (Having read the details of the troubled production hi-
story, I know it wasn't easy...)  The aforementioned ass starts 
dragging in hour two, after a short 'n' sweet confrontation be-
tween Crowe and some shady locals.  (Balls and guns, what more do 
you need?)  The hills come alive with horseplay and Morse's now-
bearded character alternates between pleading, paining, and pick-
ing fights with his captors.  There's also an escape attempt and 
lots of yelling (and quite likely cursing) in Spanish.  Mean-
while, back at the Bat Cave, Wife and Professional wait around 
the phone, er, radio, which leads to talking, which leads to 
friendship, which leads to romance, yawn, albeit both low-power-
ed and very late in the game.  (No time for hanky-panky here!)  
Thank goodness for a few bits of graphic gore that add a little 
life-- it's just a flesh wound!  really!-- as does the appearance 
of a wide-eyed fellow prisoner. 

I saw this one with a friend, so I couldn't walk out, though I 
*wanted* to walk out, and if I *had* walked out, I would've mis-
sed Ms. Reed's best bad moment.  Right before her character re-
turns to the states, the (butch) actress' dramatic gears go into 
overdrive and she wraps that last scene with such scary glaring 
and intense overplaying that you half-expect her to lunge at the 
camera and attempt to jump through the screen!  (That'll put some 
hair on your chest...)  Near the end, while waiting for the movie 
to end, I counted the number of on-screen (bad-guy) deaths during 
the big, base camp-attack finale.  As categorized by "dispatch 
method," they were (are?):  knife in neck (1), knife in back (1), 
machine gun (9), handgun (1), automatic rifle (5), and manually 
triggered land mine (2).  Do you suppose those constitute product 
plugs?  Oh, and for added effect, skim Robert Young Pelton's ex-
cellent (non?) travel guide "The World's Most Dangerous Places."  
Specially, the chapter on Kidnapping.  Oh oh, and don't miss the 
closing credits that feature an extended aerial tour that's as 
stunning as any IMAX movie you'd pay to see.  With David Caruso.  
Taylor Hackford directs.  (Rated "R"/132 min.)
Grade: C-

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: About, Oh, 45 Proof

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros