Drugstore Doughboys

With the exception of one tense ambush sequence that explodes into chaos only to run on too long and sacrifice all credibility with Ryan's amazing escape, the gunfights are all generic shoot-'em-ups. The much ballyhooed realism and attention to detail that have characterized past Clancy films are abandoned here; all the supposedly Colombian footage is shot in Mexico (the only country, ironically enough, whose big-screen image may be worse than Colombia's). No one who's ever traveled through the lush Colombian countryside will buy it for a second.

Harrison Ford lends a workmanlike hand; he's looking a trifle long in the tooth to pull off the lean, mean, secret-agent routine, especially when it requires him to go traipsing down mountainsides and go mano a mano with the bad guys. But he's still got that reluctant hero shtick down pat, and his star power is one of the film's few saving graces. Willem Dafoe does what he can with the role of a CIA field operative who assembles the U.S. hit team, and Anne Archer gets significantly less opportunity to strut her stuff as Jack's supportive, fretful, yet completely self-actualized wife than she did in Patriot Games. Donald Moffat is an overly broad and buffoonish President Bennett; Henry Czerny's oily CIA deputy director is a stock company man; and Joaquim de Almeida as a shadowy cartel intelligence director with delusions of grandeur is by turns menacing and laughable.

Unlike previous adaptations of Clancy's novels, Clear and Present Danger acknowledges the past three decades in American history. The film opens, for example, on a Coast Guard cutter with a woman at the helm. Perhaps Clancy's righteous indignation toward government officials more concerned with getting re-elected than they are with doing the right thing is cause for hope. Maybe by the time he writes his next novel he'll have caught wind of Tailhook, or heard that the CIA winked at and possibly facilitated coke smuggling to support covert operations in Central America. Maybe he'll even learn that sometimes the Pentagon fudges numbers to stave off budget cuts, although hopefully that won't limit the number of cool toys he can work into his writing.

Maybe he'll even become so enlightened that he realizes the war on drugs begins and ends in this country. We have met the enemy and he is us, Tom. Get a clue.

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