Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Film Review)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Film Review)

Since there are seemingly no new stories in Hollywood, we are provided with a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise, the secret agent best known for the film “trilogy” that included The Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger. We also had a previous reboot attempt with Ben Affleck in the lead role, in The Sum of All Fears.

In our latest attempt to get people interested in the Tom Clancy character again, we are given Chris Pine, now best known as the guy in the new Star Trek films, playing Jack Ryan, and the origins of how he started working for the CIA and getting involved in all kinds of secret world issues and terrorist plots.

shadow3Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is really, a whole bunch of average stuffed into one film. Sure, there are some cool action scenes. But they almost seem pointless. Sure, there is a stellar cast here, including Oscar-winners like Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Costner, as well as the role of the love-interest/fiancee played by Keira Knightley (it seems like forever since she has been in a movie! I know this isn’t correct, but it feels that way), who adapts an American accent for one of the rare times in her career, making her almost seem like someone else completely. While these stars are present in the film, they don’t really do much. They are just there.

Our plot is about Jack Ryan, a marine who is recruited by the CIA, where he begins working as a numbers crunched for global data. Here, he uncovers a plot that is meant to crash the US economy, and from there, he is thrown into the field in a series of unfortunate events.

There are plenty of cliches throughout the story, and the viewers will be continually reminded that they are watching a kind of James Bond reboot lite, with some of the substance, but not nearly enough to make us really care about anything.

There isn’t a ton to say about this film. You won’t hate yourself for watching it, it isn’t nearly that bad. It is decent. Everything about it is decent. But in an era now where we demand more from our action movies, such as strong characters, engrossing plot, maybe some humour, even some requirements for intellectual thinking, Shadow Recruit generally does just alright. There is nothing new here, and nothing life changing. If you watch it just for the action, you will be mildly entertained. Even looking at the other reviews for the film, we can see how it is mired in mediocrity. 6.2 from IMDB? Mediocre. 56% from Rotten Tomatoes? Mediocre.

shadowI’ll say that the best part of the film is Knightley, if only because she really seems like the perfect casting for someone who is meant to grow up and be played by Anne Archer in the later Harrison Ford films, like Patriot Games.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit could have been much, much more, and so much better. It continues on the path of strange directorial roles taken on by renowned Shakespearean actor Branagh, but it never really gets out of second gear.

The Campaign (Film Review)

The Campaign (Film Review)

I have long maintained that Will Ferrell is fantastic in small doses, but simply becomes irritating when he is expected to carry a film. When he is a part of an ensemble, he truly shines, and this comes across in films like Old School and Anchorman. His role was reduced because there was so much talent around him, making him, and the movie, much funnier. When he is forced to carry a movie all on his own, I find that he becomes far more annoying, and difficult to take.

The Campaign is a good example of this. The film is about a congressional election, where Ferrell has typically run unopposed for several terms. This allows him to be a womanizing, idiotic congressman, who does little well, and is quite poor at his job. When finally someone decides to run against him (Zach Galifianakis), the shenanigans of their campaign begin.

And it is ridiculous. But the worst part is, it isn’t funny.

campaign2As with most comedies, there is a plot line in here somewhere, something about big business running American politics, and influences from overseas being able to buy whatever they want when it comes to politics. You’re probably not going to be watching this film for the social commentary.

The premise for the jokes is that both of the candidates will do anything to win, and this leads to a slanderous run up to the election, where they have traded stunts along the way that are meant to draw laughter. Galifianakis does a commercial where he gets Ferrell’s son to call him “Dad.” So Ferrell sleeps with his opponent’s wife, and makes the sex tape into a commercial. Hilarious? There is an ongoing gag about a couple of pug dogs. Are they Chinese dogs? Do they make Galifianakis a communist? Ha? Or there is the running gag of Ferrell accidentally punching things he shouldn’t be punching. Like a baby. Or a dog. Is this the funny part?

While this film could have an intelligent, and humorous look at the US political system, it simply leaves us laughless and flat. Bulworth this is not. It’s not even Swing Vote, with Kevin Costner.

This film is a fairly big waste of a couple of comedic talents, in the two lead actors, both of whom work best with a strong supporting cast around them. Instead, they are surrounded by cliched characters and over-actors, not allowing them to truly shine, and forcing them to have to try and carry the movie all by themselves. The film wastes the talents of some pretty funny supporting characters, who aren’t funny in this film (Jason Sudekis, John Lithgow, Dan Akroyd). It gets old fairly quickly, which is too bad. There could have been some potential here, but it is just far too preposterous, and it feels pretty thrown together, to be considered a good movie, or at least, one that is funny.

I’d recommend skipping The Campaign. There are far better political comedies out there, and I simply did not find this one funny or entertaining.