Russell plus Meg = No onscreen chemistry!
Cast: Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, Pamela Reed, David Caruso
Director: Taylor Hackford
Producers: Taylor Hackford, Charles Mulvehill
Screenplay: Tony Gilroy
Cinematography: Slawomir Idziak
Music: Danny Elfman
Distributor: Warner Brothers
In Proof Of Life, Alice (Meg Ryan) is the wife of Peter Bowman (David Morse), an American engineer who works in third world countries.
We find her brooding over a recent miscarriage, which is compounded by their living so far from home in a South American banana republic.
Life takes a turn for the worse when Peter is kidnapped by drug lords masquerading as revolutionaries. Their love is put to the test and is further complicated by the arrival of steely hostage negotiator Terry Thorne
(played by superhunk Kiwi Russell Crowe, Gladiator).
A simple enough plot you would think. Not quite.
The story tries to have an opinion on everything.
It serves its allegiance to capitalism by openly displaying contempt for communist guerillas; it touches upon the conflict between professionalism and care for human life; it bares open the relationship between two in-laws... And in doing the above, fails to engage the audience on any issue.
With apologies to Shakespeare, it all seems much ado about everything, signifying nothing.
In the light of Meg Ryan's recent split with husband Dennis Quaid over her alleged involvement with her Proof Of Life costar Russell Crowe it is not surprising if you keep searching for the point in the film during which the real-life chemistry between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe kicked in.
But you'll be disappointed. There aren't many sparks between them on screen.
Their onscreen romance has little to do with the story, not least of all because it is among the many story threads that peter out uncomfortably in favour of others which take the film forward.
It is also awkward because it simply doesn't go far enough. Unable to really explore the complexities of an emotional transference between the characters because it has so many other things to get on with, the film relies on several coyly suggestive scenes and one kiss by way of 'romantic' content.
The romance is nothing but a distraction from the main business of the story and serves as a constant irritation as it takes away from the plot.
Peter's four-month incarceration by guerillas is far more intriguing than anything else in Proof Of Life but director Taylor Hackford (The Devil's Advocate) fails to bring it all together.
Why could he not think of Russell Crowe discovering the whereabouts of the victim from any other source but a chance maid who happens to work in the wrongdoers' household?
Although Proof Of Life undergoes a radical shift in tone during the final 30 minutes, which feature a rousing rescue plot, in which former soldier and mercenary pal David Caruso extract Peter from the terrorists' mountain camp, the film takes too long to get to this point.
It would have held audiences hostage far more effectively if it stuck to the basic tough-guy-rescues-kidnapped-people model rather than indulge in weak multiple subplots.