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'Jack Ryan' fails to impress

By Alex Sferrazza
On January 20, 2014

At best, "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is a third rate espionage flick, a poor man's James Bond. Unfortunately, considering the current state of Hollywood, I sincerely doubt it'll be the worst action film you'll see this year.
This latest reboot of Tom Clancy's iconic "Jack Ryan" spy franchise puts Chris Pine (Captain Kirk of the latest "Star Trek") in the titular role previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Pine himself makes a credible spy, but his performance is held back by what is otherwise a truly unremarkable film.
The basic plot follows Ryan, a 20-something Marine who gets recruited for the CIA by agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Coster). A few years later, Ryan heads to Russia in an attempt to prevent an upcoming terrorist attack in America designed to lead the United States into a second Great Depression.
The true tragedy of "Shadow Recruit" is that in the hands of a more competent screenwriter and more capable director, this film could've been much better. The basic storyline isn't half bad, and both Pine and Costner deliver convincing performances whose biggest flaws lie in the unrefined script. To compare the film to its contemporaries, "Shadow Recruit" lacks both the humor and the unabashed, exhilarating fun of "Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol" as well the character development and superior pacing of "Skyfall."
By the time the credits have rolled, you will not have cared once about any of the characters in the movie, thats how plain they are. You don't hate the villain, he's just there. You aren't rooting for the hero; you're just passively watching him. There's just no drama and very little suspense. The film rushes through scenes and plot points at a breakneck pace and this incredible lack of exposition holds back what could've been a decent film.
Director Kenneth Branagh's last action movie effort, 2011's "Thor," was never exactly hailed as a masterpiece but it was leagues better than "Shadow Recruit". Then again, that picture didn't suffer from a script as poor as this film's.
Keira Knightly's talents are wasted in her role as Ryan's girlfriend. The part is so insignificant and poorly written that the production could have probably saved a few bucks and hired any random pretty face from a modeling catalog.
The villain (played by Branagh himself) is so poorly developed and forgettable that he barely merits mention.
The actions scenes are too far and few in between and when they do occur, the camerawork and editing are so sloppily done that it makes it difficult to enjoy what is happening. In fact, the entire picture feels as though it was shot as a series of separate short mini segments compiled into a 105-minute sequence with very little or very poor transitioning from segment to segment.
What more can be said? The film lacks suspense, excitement and pretty much everything else you'd expect to get out of an action movie. No, I didn't feel it was a poor enough effort to merit walking out of the theater, but I honestly can't think of any reason to recommend the picture to anybody. One thing's for certain: an icon like Jack Ryan deserves better.


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