Saturday, January 14, 2006

I understand the "Cartel Busting" merit badge is the hardest to earn: "Clear and Present Danger"

It has come to this: Harrison Ford is such a boy scout that people say it to his face. The nerve!

Not long ago I waxed on how great the younger Harry was as a roguish space pilot and globe-trotting archaeologist. Sadly, all good things must pass, and Ford went on to such fare as "Working Girl" and "Regarding Henry" -- neither of which I've seen, I admit, but still ...

Ford also found a home in a role first played by Alec Baldwin, that of Tom Clancy hero Jack Ryan. While the Baldwin movie, "The Hunt for Red October," remains my favorite Clancy adaptation, "Patriot Games" wasn't bad, and I've caught pieces of it probably a dozen times over the years.

I hadn't, however, seen Ford's follow-up, "Clear and Present Danger." Looks like it came out in August 1994, when I was headed back to college for my senior year and had much more important things on my mind, like getting over my girlfriend of two years and exploring whether I could get a minor in "Libations." As for renting the movie later ... I don't know. I guess nobody ever told me it was anything great, and there was always something better at the video store. ("Hey, 'Under Siege 2' is in. All right!")

Our somewhat convoluted story deals with the U.S. war on drugs -- specifically a Colombian cartel that pissed off the President by killing his friend's family on a boat. That incident leads to a secret operation in South America and all sorts of political maneuvering and deal-making between sides in Washington and assorted locales. It's actually not a bad story, and pretty timely in the '80s and '90s.

Jack Ryan, of course, is caught in the middle of this, with "this" ranging from Beltway malfeasance to ambushes in South America. All the while, his precocious family waits at home, with Anne Archer and Thora Birch both pretty happy that Daddy's enemies aren't going after his family like those nasty Irish people.

The cast is decent, with fun guys like Henry Czerny and Harris Yulin playing slimy D.C. higher-ups, while "that guy" Joaquim de Almeida is a cartel security guy trying to play both sides of the war. We even get Ted "My brother directed 'Spider-Man'" Raimi in a bit part. We love him!

Some actors, though, are a little off, such as Willem Dafoe as a spook heading up the secret op in Colombia. Don't know if it's his weird face, wavy hair or white pants, but he just didn't strike me as a veteran CIA guy who knows his way around Latin America. This movie fell between "Body of Evidence" -- a hugely entertaining bad movie -- and "Speed 2: Cruise Control," and maybe it was a rough time all around for Willem. Perhaps if he just changed his name to "William," things would get better.

Also, the head of the cartel is played by Miguel Sandoval, who is a perfectly fine actor and might have been believable in this role except I can't look at him now and not think of the cockfighting episode of "Seinfeld." You know, with "Little Jerry?" That came a couple of years after "Clear and Present Danger," but the damage is done. Seriously, how menacing is a cartel boss when all you can picture him saying is "When Leetle Yerry is mine, the check will come down ... "

Finally, we have Ford. It's hard to count all the cases of Harrison playing the indignantly noble man. Let's see ... "Presumed Innocent" ... "The Fugitive" ... "Air Force One." Looks like we'll get another one with "Firewall," based on the previews. Frankly, it's a little old by now, and he overdoes it in "Clear and Present Danger."

Sure, I get that Ryan has to do the right thing -- "Truth Needs a Soldier," screams the tagline -- but his naivete in Washington was hard to swallow. Hell, I've never worked inside the Beltway or for the CIA (no, really) and I wasn't surpised at the double-talk. And come on ... this was the guy who knew Greedo was about to shoot him in the cantina.


Post a Comment

<< Home