There’s half an interesting movie in Proof of Life, and it concerns Peter Bowman (David Morse), an American engineer in the fictional South American country of Tecala. Held hostage for four months in a remote Andean camp, he’s extricated by macho kidnap-and-ransom specialist Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) in a tense military operation. The capable Morse makes Bowman’s stubborn willpower a palpable thing, and Crowe once again gets mileage out of that charismatic dead-fish stare (he’s the rare actor who seems more intelligent the less he appears to think). I’d have paid to see that movie in theaters.
Unfortunately, ”Proof of Life” is mostly about the relationship between Terry and Bowman’s wife, Alice (Meg Ryan) — or it was until the producers reportedly lost their nerve after test screenings and cut the scene in which the couple actually ”does it.” What’s left is an almost semiotic series of moist looks and chaste caresses, the apparent moral being that the complexities of adultery are best served by the tabloid press and not by movies aimed at grown-up audiences. They fixed ”Proof of Life,” all right — the same way the vet fixed my dog.