MOVIE MAN

‘Shadow Recruit’ proves a shaky reboot for Ryan franchise

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, January 22, 2014

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” broke the record for the trailer the Movie Man saw the most times.

It started running way back in the summer of 2013, heralding a Christmastime release. Every film seemingly played the “JR:SR” coming attraction.

Then, out of the blue in the fall, an announcement came that the movie was getting bumped into the cinematic death pit of January/February (unless you’re a horror movie; they seem to do quite well in January).

Some “JR:SR” trailers played with the “coming to theaters at Christmas” tag, even after the delay announcement.

The surprise of a major film getting bumped was lessened somewhat by the notice that George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” was getting tossed from December to February – a George Clooney movie!

ABOUT THE FILM

Usually, when a movie gets moved from a specific release date, something is wrong. (Those dates are heavily researched and locked-in well in advance.)

Sometimes, the reason for the moving of a picture is valid. It now looks like “Titanic” (Movie Man No. 212, an 8) really did need more post-production time; hence its bumping from the summer of 1997 to that Christmas.

But it’s a rarity when that’s the reason for a well-publicized picture to be jettisoned.

Usually it’s because the preview audiences hated it or detested the ending and another is shot, pushing back the release date.

Sometimes studios know they have a major dud on their hands and try to find a rare lull in the calendar – usually January or, especially, February – where they might make back a few million bucks before word gets out.

And now here’s “JR:SR.” It stars a hot actor (Chris Pine), a popular actress (Keira Knightley, from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series), and an older actor who looks like he’s putting together some sort of twilight comeback (Kevin Costner).

Throw in the director of 2011’s “Thor” (Kenneth Branagh, a 7) and “JR:SR” looked can’t-miss. But something was clearly off – hence the delay.

Pine is the fourth person to portray author Tom Clancy’s world-saving CIA analyst. Alec Baldwin (1990, “The Hunt for Red October”) was first, followed by Harrison Ford (1992, “Patriot Games” and 1994 “Clear and Present Danger” a 7]) then Ben Affleck (2002, “The Sum of All Fears,” a 6).

Those earlier three certainly shone in the part of Ryan. And Pine’s OK – but just OK. And maybe that’s the concern. What was conceived as a rebooting of a potential huge franchise came out “just OK.”

THE PLOT (SPOILERS)

After seeing 9/11, college student Jack Ryan (Pine) joins the Marines. He gets shot down in a helicopter. While recuperating back in the States, he falls for Cathy (Knightley).

Watching silently as Pine tries to heal is Thomas (Costner). Eventually the duo meet and Costner, knowing Ryan’s exceptional analytical skills, convinces him to come work with him in the CIA. However, Ryan can’t tell anyone, even eventual live-in girlfriend Knightley.

Working among the drones on Wall Street, Pine discovers what he believes is mischief in Russia. He gets the OK to go there and meet evil Viktor (Branagh) who plans on unleashing a financial scheme to destroy the American dollar and hide the computer attack with a real terrorist one.

Things get complicated when Knightley surprises Ryan in Russia. Soon she gets embroiled in the clandestine maneuvers.

Even when they decode and thwart the computer attack, they have just 18 hours back in America to stop the real destruction planned for Wall Street.

WHAT WORKS

Even with a script that is incredibly Old School, Branagh manages to keep the film sailing right along. The camera moves amid long, static shots, and there’s some dizzying editing in action scenes.

His acting is also Old School – a thick Russian accent that harkens back to the Cold War days. In fact, that’s the feel of the entire movie. It seems like 1991 again, and the movie even literally looks to have been time-traveled from there.

Costner is the other actor worth mentioning. He’s older and chunkier now, no longer the lean hunk. And, with a world-weary fa ade and attitude, he’s believable as a guy who travels the planet to keep America from getting attacked again.

Kudos to “JR:SR” for not being some sort of Jason Bourne wild action movie; there’s not a fight every 10 minutes. In fact, it’s the cat-and-mouse aspects of the picture that stand out.

BEST SCENE

Under Costner’s distant direction, Pine must infiltrate Branagh’s secure office and copy information off his computer. Since Pine is dining with Branagh across the street, it’s up to Knightley to keep the Russian occupied long enough for Pine to pull off his heist.

In a race against time, the security chief discovers the break-in while Pine’s still there, and even Branagh does (eventually). However, thanks to some precise timing and a few accurate gunshots from afar, Pine manages to get what he needs.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

Pine isn’t much here. As super as he is in the “Star Trek” reboots, he’s just too wimpy to be a Marine and CIA agent, even an analyst.

Knightley doesn’t have much to do either.

The action scenes are dull, the sort you’re ready to see end as they go on for five more minutes. Pine races through the streets to save Knightley in a scene that really stretches believability.

And the finale in underground New York City is a fun-drainer, too. Then there’s the conclusion that looks like it came out of an old TV “McCloud” episode – with a poor special effect shot to boot.

THE RATING

“JR:SR” has one f-bomb, some generic action and intense sequences. It’s a middlin’ PG-13.

SUMMING UP

As noted earlier, this movie feels like it’s 20 years old already. If that’s the goal, great. But that might also be the reason for the delay – what 20-something wants to see grandpa’s espionage hero? However, if you liked 1991, you’ll love it.

NEXT UP

The Movie Man loves him some monster movies and “I, Frankenstein” looks wonderfully horrible.

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