Thursday, 1 September 2016

Movie Review: Clear And Present Danger (1994)


A Jack Ryan thriller, Clear And Present Danger features some impressive action but is otherwise cluttered with too many characters, too much plot and an impassive hero.

Cali Cartel drug lord Ernesto Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval) instigates the bloody murder of a corrupt American businessman and his entire family. Unfortunately for Escobedo, the murdered man was a personal friend of US President Bennett (Donald Moffat), who hints strongly to his National Security Advisor James Cutter (Harris Yulin) that he wants to exact revenge through a CIA-funded dirty war. Cutter authorizes Bob Ritter (Henry Czerny), the CIA's Deputy Director for Operations, to take action. Cutter hires John Clark (Willem Dafoe), a Panama-based mercenary, to mobilize a commando group and go after Escobedo's assets.

With the CIA's Deputy Director for Intelligence Jim Greer (James Earl Jones) in ailing health, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is promoted and finds himself at odds with Ritter, who wants to keep the intelligence group in the dark while potentially setting up Ryan to take the fall in case the mission goes sour. Meanwhile Escobedo's chief advisor FĂ©lix Cortez (Joaquim de Almeida) senses an opportunity to take advantage of the American rage and topple Escobedo from his perch.

An adaptation of the Tom Clancy book directed by Phillip Noyce, there is plenty that is wrong with Clear And Present Danger. The suggestion that the President of the United States would order a dirty war because an old college buddy of his (and a corrupt one at that) was maybe killed by a drug cartel is ludicrous. Then the script packs in a large assortment of characters each with a different agenda, and the film chokes on too many directions. What may have worked in a meaty book becomes so much clutter, and the overblown 141 minutes of running time are testament to a thriller chasing too many targets.

The real bad guy is either Escobedo or Cortez, the film is never sure. And back in Washington, both Cutter and Ritter are unscrupulous careerist bureaucrats playing the multi-layered cover-your-butt game. Meanwhile Jim Greer is tottering about at the hospital burning through screen time but contributing little, while Jack Ryan is reduced to a non-entity, doing next to nothing to advance any of the numerous narratives. When Ryan and Clark end up hacking a path through the Colombian jungle to rescue surviving mercenaries, they appear as lost as the film's thrust. Meanwhile, Anne Archer as Mrs. Ryan wanders through the movie fascinated by the lack of anything meaningful for her to do.

There is one excellent action sequence to celebrate, Noyce delivering a thrilling ten minutes as a convoy of US government SUVs is ambushed on a dusty Colombian street. That despite the high ambush casualty count there appears to be no retribution or reaction from the US government speaks volumes about the film's flawed logic.

After this outing there would be no Jack Ryan movie outing for eight years, until 2002's The Sum Of All Fears with Ben Affleck taking over the role. This is one agent who clearly needed the long hiatus.






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