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Movie review: The re-booted 'Jack Ryan' is a clear and present disaster

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Scenes from "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."
Scenes from "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."
2014 Paramount Pictures
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
2014 Paramount Pictures

The famous character of Jack Ryan has been re-booted by Hollywood, by the same faction of life-sucking drones that seem to ruin every beloved character and franchise the American public holds dear. They work their deadly magic again with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (opening today), an origin story of the popular CIA officer, created by the late author Tom Clancy (Clancy just passed away this past October).

It's the fifth time we've seen Jack Ryan on the big screen, but to me, Harrison Ford owns the big-screen moniker. He played Ryan twice, in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, but to be fair, he was given the best material to work with. In the other two films, The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears, the character was portrayed by Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck, respectively.

Now it's Chris Pine's turn to step into the role of Jack Ryan. You can almost hear the wheels grinding, turning, in the minds of those responsible for this re-make, and their decision to cast Pine. Pine was, after all, picked to play Captain James T. Kirk in the recent Star Trek re-boot. And although he is interesting to watch as Captain Kirk, his version of Jack Ryan shows no stretch of acting, star power, or characterization. The powers-that-be, per norm, probably just thought that you could pluck out the same actor and you'd have instant success.

As the flimsy, convoluted story goes in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a young Jack Ryan survives a failed military mission and is the lone survivor (wait, that sounds like another film I've seen recently...). Shortly thereafter, he falls in love with his nurse (a horribly miscast Keira Knightley) and is then secretly recruited by a veteran CIA agent, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, giving a lazy, collect-a-paycheck performance). He is tasked with infiltrating a Wall Street brokerage firm, to get close to some bad guys who pose a threat to our national security.

Whatever happened to action films with plots that make even a bit of sense? The plot of this film is throw-away, January garbage if there ever was any.

But more important than plot (sarcasm), is who the bad guy is! And we are treated with an instant Razzie-worthy performance by Kenneth Branagh, as a stoic Russian baddie with a bad accent. Branagh also directed this film, and while he filled his last film, Thor, with some tongue-in-cheek silliness, this film takes itself way too seriously for what it is giving us. Here, he hams up the screen to epic proportions, coming across as less of a villainous bolshevik, and more of a unfortunate cross between Boris Badenov and Ivan Drago. Branagh is known for his love of all things Shakespearean and he definitely peddles up the dramatics, especially in scenes concerning his own forgettable character.

Eventually the film is boiled down to your standard good guy versus bad guy romps, where nothing matters because nothing has been invested and where shaky camera tricks rule the day. Who knows just what the heck motivated any of these characters to do any of the things they did. It's more important that Chris Pine appeal to a female audience and that there is enough noise and explosions to attract some wandering popcorn cavemen, so that a sequel can be immediately green-lit.

Technically, this was about the worst film I've ever seen in IMAX, from the standpoint of IMAX adding anything to the experience. Except for the giant headache I had leaving the theater, I was only reminded that I was even watching an IMAX film when I spotted the logo in the theater a few times, as my eyes would occasionally wander towards the exit sign and my eventual escape route.

So what I'm saying is that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not good. Don't blame this one on Tom Clancy though, as this film is the first in the series that was not based on any of his novels or works. And I haven't started to become annoyed with Chris Pine until now. Let's hope his career goes in a different direction, where he can show off a bit more and hopefully expand on his adventurous everyman persona that has grown quite tiresome.

Jack Ryan films were never all that deep, but they always seemed intelligent. Not requiring any level of intellect whatsoever was the fatal flaw with this one.

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated PG-13

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh

Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midwinter's Tale, Hamlet)

Opens locally on Friday, Jan 17, 2014 (check for show times).

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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
  • 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time
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