If you go
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” rated PG-13
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 105 minutes
Starring: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh and Keira Knightley
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Watching a man of average build skirmish with someone the size of William “Refrigerator” Perry should have an element of surprise to it, but when you’re asking yourself repeatedly, “Haven’t I seen this before?” that kind of ruins the experience. Such is the problem with “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”
After enlisting in the Marines after the events of 9/11 and nearly getting himself paralyzed with an act of heroism, John Patrick Ryan (Chris Pine) is brought into the fold of the Central Intelligence Agency. Ryan’s job is not to operate in the field but to serve as the CIA’s eyes and ears for any suspicious activities that could indicate terrorism.
Under the guise of a Wall Street office drone, his work is little more than reviewing data and reporting to his superiors, but when he sees a troubling pattern with Russian monies, he’s pushed into a trip to Moscow to determine just what this could mean to the United States.
Ryan’s plans to meet with businessman Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) and investigate the unusual economic occurrences are interrupted by an assassination attempt that confirms he’s onto something really big. His mentor (Kevin Costner) insists he follow through, yet that’s easier said than done when Ryan’s fiancee (Keira Knightley), who’s completely in the dark about his covert life, surprises him in Russia.
Apparently Pine is the new go-to guy for whenever Hollywood wants to reinvent a beloved character, but unlike Capt. James Kirk, Jack Ryan never has been tied exclusively to one actor, nor has he had the same qualities across every movie. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck each brought something to the role of the thinking man’s action hero, who may as well have the phrase “I’m only an analyst” tattooed on his chest. Pine isn’t without his own talents, making Jack a slightly dorky but promising agent in training.
In his first of five movies due for release this year, Costner is fine if a little stiff as the veteran CIA bigwig who first approaches Ryan about joining the agency. Knightley is likewise good but not great as Jack’s long-term girlfriend, under the impression his secretive nature masks an affair.
For a woman who’s not easily fooled by conflicting stories, she accepts the line, “Honey, I’m in the CIA,” a tad too fast.
Branagh offers the most as the stony Cherevin, an old-fashioned, vodka-marinated, no-nonsense Russkie with plans to cripple the American economy and settle an old grudge all before he dies from liver failure.
Branagh’s work as director of this reboot is stylish and helps establish that this is a new era for the late Tom Clancy’s series, something already attempted with “The Sum of All Fears.”
The question is, did it really need an overhaul? Yes, there are new threats to the country in this day and age, and yes, Clancy’s books don’t have to be considered the gospel.
What’s bothersome is how mundane something like this is.
Putting aside the endless jargon Jack spouts about financial strategies, you can’t help but be bored by someone who’s presented as James Bond without the accent, Jason Bourne without the mystique and Ethan Hunt without the gadgetry. You could switch in any of these characters and not notice, so why bother trying to redefine Jack Ryan if you’ve got nothing unique to the character?
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” has the cast to work, but as yet another movie franchise starting over from scratch, it goes with the wrong method and never feels like its own feature, proving you shouldn’t get to do a reboot if all you’re going to do is rip off the competition.
Just imagine if Christopher Nolan had done that — Batman suddenly gets spider powers, wears red and gold armor and turns green when he gets angry.
Wait, is it too late to pitch that idea?
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.