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Pine solidifies spot as action star with "Shadow Recruit" (Blu-ray review)

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley

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When investment broker Jack Ryan (Pine) discovers an impending threat to the American economy, his unique skill set is called upon to deter Russian terrorists before it's too late. With help from his government mentor, Thomas Harper (Costner), and a team of highly trained specialists, Ryan travels to Moscow to investigate a powerful Russian named Cherevin, who is believed to be behind the looming financial crisis - but little does Ryan know the danger that awaits him there. When things quickly go south, Ryan is recruited to go operational as a CIA agent, effective immediately, in what some might call a baptism by fire.

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The Breakdown:

Serving as a reboot to the Tom Clancy-based blockbusters from the '80s and '90s, Pine becomes the fifth actor to assume the iconic role of Jack Ryan. Though "Shadow Recruit" is actually an original story and not an adaptation of a Clancy novel, those familiar with movies like "Clear and Present Danger" and "Patriot Games," should know what they're getting themselves into - a fast-paced political thriller with lots of action and pro-American sentiment. Several aspects of this movie help reinforce that stereotype: a pulse-pounding soundtrack, a reliance on countdown timers, and the a powerful Russian enemy all give the movie a white-knuckle feel as it races to the finish line.

Pine further solidifies his status as one of this generation's great action heroes with his debut performance as Jack Ryan. Based on his current box office popularity with men and women, alike, and due to filmmakers' love of book-to-film adaptations and sequels, it's safe to say that Pine will reprise the role at some point in the future. Costner, who for once does not appear partially nude at any point in one of his films, is solid as Ryan's mentor and teammate and is a welcome addition to the cast. Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film, plays the thickly accented Russian antagonist and is easily despised in the anti-American role. And, of course, there's Keira Knightley, who appears as Ryan's girlfriend, Cathy. Let's not forget that this is a post-"Pirates 1" Knightley, and is not to be taken seriously as an actress anymore after the absolute catastrophes that were her performances in "Pirates" 2 and 3. She's the weak link in this cast in the role of the somewhat-attractive-yet-utterly-bland doctor who seems to have been unwillingly strung along for the ride. (Also, can anyone shed some light on whether those are her actual teeth? Sorry, but... seriously.)

As far as the action is concerned, "Shadow Recruit" mostly delivers, but Ryan's transition from Wall Street analyst to cold-blooded killer and world-class runner feels jarring, as if he magically developed his secret agent skills while on the way up to his hotel room. Other than that, the slick CIA operation is quick and fun to watch and viewers will need to keep their personal distractions aside, for any time spent looking anywhere other than the TV might be costly. The Salt Lake City DVD Examiner cannot confirm nor deny whether or not he had to rewind two or three scenes.

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The Verdict:

Overall, "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is an intense thrill ride from about 20 minutes in until the end of its uncharacteristically short run time. It's not often these days that a blockbuster action movie keeps itself shorter than two hours, but, at just over an hour and 40 minutes, "Shadow Recruit" is able to tell a riveting story without getting too long-winded - and that's a good thing. The movie will appeal to viewers who liked Matt Damon's "Bourne" trilogy and, despite its lack of gadgets, fans of movies like "Mission: Impossible" and the James Bond franchise should be able to sit down and enjoy the film, as well.

If you saw the movie in theaters and liked it, now may be the time to head on over to WalMart and pick it up for the everyday low price of $13 for the DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy combo pack. That's a dang good deal, considering that other just-released movies most often run for nearly double that price. For those who may be skeptical or are just looking for a good way to pass the evening, "Shadow Recruit" can be found as a relatively rare day-one Redbox release. It's surely worth a watch if you're a fan of a good action flick and/or America in general.

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Similar movies: "The Sum of All Fears" (2002), "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), "Jack Reacher" (2012)

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Blu-ray bonus features:

- Audio in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English Descriptive Audio

- Subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

- No other bonus features available on rental version

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Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Running time: 105 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language," including one use of the F-word, a handful of moderately offensive religious references, and some brief gore toward the beginning of the movie.

Costars Kenneth Branagh, Alec Utgoff

Blu-ray release date: June 6, 2014

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