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Proof Of Life

A hostage negotiator falls for the wife of the abducted American he's trying to save in this respectable Third World kidnapping thriller.


In an unnamed South American country, idealistic U.S. engineer Peter Bowman ("The Green Mile's" David Morse) is nabbed and held for ransom by Marxist guerrillas. Enter Australian kidnapping expert Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), assigned to help Peter's desperate wife Alice (Meg Ryan) deal with the crisis. Greedy corporate maneuvering leads the insurance company that employs Terry to wash its hands of the case, but the hero decides to stay on the job anyway. Hey, it's Meg Ryan we're talking about!


Crowe follows up "Gladiator" with another commanding star turn that should dispel any remaining doubts that Hollywood has found its next big screen hero. With no opportunity to utilize her trademark gift for comedy, Ryan goes into her unexciting dramatic actress mode as a standard stressed-out loved one. Of the solid supporting players, former "NYPD Blue" dick David Caruso makes the strongest impression as Terry's manic hostage-extracting colleague.


Taylor Hackford ("The Devil's Advocate") capably pushes the film through familiar territory, borrowing licks from such diverse pictures as "Missing" and "Rambo" before lifting the ending of a certain beloved classic (no, we're not saying which). He and frequent screenwriting collaborator Tony Gilroy set up a realistic situation loaded with natural suspense, though one might have expected the director of "An Officer and a Gentleman" to work the romantic attraction between Terry and Alice to more sizzling effect. A few unnecessarily complicated plot twists rob the story of momentum leading into the surprisingly hard-core action finale - the main reason the flick stretches to an enthusiasm-taxing 135 minutes.

Bottom Line

Not the most original thrill ride in town, but with the red-hot Crowe in action, what are genre fans waiting for?