Friday, January 17, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Movie Review

Chris Pine & Kevin Costner (r) in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

He's Out of His Element... Da! 

Am I the only one who didn't hate Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan? The 2x Oscar winner (yes, deal with it) seemed to balance the line between strategist/warrior as well as predecessors Alec Baldwin & Harrison Ford; and appeared poised to return for a sequel or two. That never happened, despite the financial success of 2002's The Sum of All Fears... paving the way for yet another reboot of Tom Clancy's CIA hero/President/Superman. Chris Pine trades in his Starfleet uniform (a much better fit, if you ask me) for a coat, tie & the "aw shucks, I'm just an analyst" routine in Kenneth Branagh's all-too-predictable Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the kind of movie that proves audiences will applaud for anything expensive, loud and violent... no matter how unoriginal it is.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Based on the character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, "Jack Ryan" is a global action thriller set in the present day. This original story follows a young Jack (Chris Pine) as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. The story follows him from 9/11, through his tour of duty in Afghanistan, which scarred him forever, and into his early days in the Financial Intelligence Unit of the modern CIA where he becomes an analyst, under the guardianship of his handler, Harper (Kevin Costner). When Ryan believes he's uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to becoming a spy and must fight to save his own life and those of countless others, while also trying to protect the thing that's more important to him than anything, his relationship with his fiancĂ©e Cathy (Keira Knightley).

What’s Best: I suppose if you never saw all the other Jack Ryan movies, Shadow Recruit would seem a cut above what you find in most action thrillers. It's fast paced, with likable characters, a secondary love story (complete with all the necessary complications) and most importantly... a familiar character, audiences already like. Pine & Costner trade one-liners with effectiveness, and Knightley is indeed 'beautiful,' but not enough to overcome Adam Cozad and David Koepp's almost trivial screenplay.

What’s Not: I like Pine a lot; but Jack Ryan, he's not. He flashes those baby blues with irksome frequency, as if to remind you, "Hey, I'm beautiful. Let's have dinner." The rest of the time, he looks shocked and bewildered, offset by the fact that (in addition to being good looking) he's reluctantly lethal and comically brilliant (even Sherlock Holmes doesn't solve crimes this fast.)

Worse yet, Pine's Ryan is propped up with tales of valor, 'He dragged both guys out (of a burning helicopter) with a broken back?' Fat chance: My back aches, and I can't even drag myself out of bed. But even Ryan's physical heroics can't match his uncanny ability to figure out top-secret terrorist plans in three minutes flat (on board an airplane, no less.) We've got to get to Michigan! No wait, he's going to blow up Pennsylvania. Check that, Wall Street (actually that was courtesy of curious Cathy, right before she offers up, "The hospital might need her." Yeah Cathy, how would all of New York manage a terrorist attack without an eye doctor, whose claim to fame is spotting the signs of jaundice?"

Best Line: No, it's not Cathy's whiny 'Will you meet me halfway?' but rather Jack's "Give me two Percocet," while making a deal in rehab, that steals the show. Pine has a way with words; but even he can't make anything out of, 'This doesn't feel right,' before springing into James Bond-mode. Branagh tries to look scary, but he's at his best while referring to his and Jack's time spent in Afghanistan, 'Different time. Same graveyard.' More Branagh vs. Pine would have made this a much better movie.

Overall: Jack relies on way too many 007 moves to propel his character into a "serious contender." A chase scene through the streets of Moscow (look, there's the Kremlin!) involves at least a dozen hair-raising turns that Sebastian Vettel couldn't navigate; yet alone an admitted analyst, who stammers while telling fibs to his girlfriend. Meanwhile, the plot of the story is (at worst) uninspired and dumb; and (at best) bordering on laughable. Branagh's Viktor (da, dat's my name) laments, "Is it the hour for lamentations?' Yes, Viktor... it is. More precisely, an hour and 45 minutes.