Clear and Present Danger review by Matt Fuerst


The Jack Ryan series of novels began with a young writer named Tom Clancy published a novel called The Hunt for Red October in 1984. He followed up that novel with Patriot Games in 1987, The Cardinal of Kremlin in 1988 and 1989 brought us Clear and Present Danger. Throughout the series Jack Ryan received more attention and moved up from a lowly desk job to some pretty high and important positions within the government of the United States. The movie version of The Hunt for Red October came out in 1990 starring Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. The movie was a success and was followed by Patriot Games in 1992. The transition brought Harrison Ford to the table and the loss of Alec Baldwin really didn't break anyones heart. 1994 saw the release of Clear and Present Danger to the big screen as the (then) latest tale of Dr. Jack Ryan's exploits.

The story begins a short period after the end of Patriot Games. Ryan is a worker at the CIA doing general desktop intelligence and analysis work. His good friend and boss Admiral James Greer falls ill and Dr. Ryan is temporarily appointed as the Deputy Director of Intelligence for the CIA. At the same time a friend of the President is murdered aboard his boat, along with his entire family and crew. The murderers, from Columbia, happen to have some drug arrests on record, and the President sees this attack as an example of the drug way coming to the doorstep of the United States, and intends to do something about it. In a series of under the table and without-official-authorization manuevers, the President (a very slimy Donald Moffat) authorizes a "little war" within the borders of Columbia. All of this occurs without the knowledge of Dr. Ryan, with the help of CIA Deputy Director Robert Ritter (Henry Czerny) and Security Advisor James Cutter (Harris Yulin).

While the attacks from the unsanctioned military force continue, Dr. Ryan unknowningly heads into Columbia to attempt to ascertain a more solid link between the killings of the President's friend and the Columbian drug lords. Even though he is without knowledge of military action going on, Ryan ends up nearly paying the price as the Drug Lords decide to strike back against the American representatives visiting their country. All this intrigue and mystery end up with two basic threads going at the same time and need resolution. The US strike force that is inserted ends up getting straded inside Columbia due to political manuevering, and Dr. Ryan needs to gather evidence to prove what has been happening behind his back by Ritter and Cutter.

The latter storyline is fairly satisfying and well done. Ryan enlists the local, friendly CIA computer nerd to hack into Ritter's computer an attempt to gather information and gain evidence. These scenes are filled with tension and convey Ryan's desperation to find out what has been happening on his watch.

The previous storyline isn't as well done, and makes up the bulk of the movie. Ryan goes back into Columbia and teams up with his Columbia connection John Clark (Willem DaFoe) to complete the extraction. Clark goes in armed into the Drug Dealers compound but Rayn goes in without packing heat, and at times it is pretty ridiculous looking. Overall it doesn't work and this part of the story is pretty weak.

The first thing you will despise about this movie is the slimy, weak President. Moffet does a great job of showing how spineless and slithery it would be to be at such a level of power. A simple suggestion or overt comment from his to his Security Advisor has tremendous ramifications, dozens of deaths and millions of dollars spent. Due to the off handed nature of the comment, the President is able to free himself of any responisibility.

The main part of the problem is that, in spite of the attempt to bring a modern day political thriller down to the common man (bringing in intelligent storylines involving modern day problems with realistic villains) at it's core CaPD is still an action movie. The key to an action movie is pacing and CaPD at times, slows down. Big no-no. This particularly occurs in the last act in Columbia, with Ryan trying to solve the problem by getting his hands dirty. Ryan gets his hands dirty in Patriot Games and it works, here it doesn't.

The video of Clear and Present Danger is very clear and color rich. There is a wide range of scenes and settings that take place within the 141 minutes of the movie. We are presented with the Ryan's home, the White House, the Columbia drug lords homes and lots of jungle scenes. All of these are presented well and with solid color saturation. There are some pretty good sniper scenes contained within and what red blooded man doesn't like seeing a sniper doing their thing?

Clear and Present Danger is known for having one of the better soundtracks and there is a lot of play in the surround speakers. This one will max out your system. For this review I watched the Laserdisc version of CaPD which is THX certified. Apparently THX certified means "work your subwoofer out to the max" since my 'woofer was blowing out dust that had been accumulated since the last time I watched The Matrix and my wife wasn't home.

This isn't the best of the Ryan series and if you only have time for one Ryan movie then don't do Clear and Present Danger. It's reasonably entertaining and stands well by itself. Just because the action slows down, it is still a much better action movie than most of what is out there. Overall, all the other entries are better than this. If you are a completist or want to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon watching all the Jack Ryan series than get ready for a reasonably entertaining entry.

6 out of 10 Jackasses
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