“Jack Ryan” needs to crawl back to the shadows

Ah, Jack Ryan.  The fictional CIA agent first portrayed by Alec Baldwin (and written by Tom Clancy) in the “Hunt for Red October” finally has an origin story.  However, instead of being played by the dashing star of many spy-oriented Capital One commercials, Ryan’s character has been revamped by Chris Pine, the up-and-coming star of the modern “Star Trek” movies.  Also starring Keira Knightley and the ageless wonder of “Waterworld” Kevin Costner, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is a celebration of unknowing CIA agents at their highest form.

“Shadow Recruit” is directed by Kenneth Branagh, the Northern Irish director best known for his Shakespeare adaptations in the 1990s, as well as “Thor” and the end-credits scene to “Iron Man 2.” Branagh, like Oscar-winning director Quentin Tarantino, likes to appear in his movies, logging parts in “Henry V,” “Frankenstein,” “Hamlet,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”  He plays Russian investments banker Viktor Cherevin in “Shadow Recruit.”

Chris Pine does a very good job playing Jack Ryan (not quite as good as Baldwin), but the acting overall is subpar.  Branagh’s Russian accent is almost as bad as Sean Connery’s, but he is very well typecast as the villain.  Costner and Knightley are both average, but this is partially due to the small parts that their characters actually play in the movie.  An explanation: the movie often feels like Branagh patting his own back for an hour-and-a-half, as he has more screen time than any character other than Jack Ryan. (Perhaps worst of all, Branagh casts ballerina and Soviet defect Mikhail Baryshnikov as his boss.)

The main villainous plot in the movie is that Cherevin intends to crash the American economy by selling all of their stock, plummeting the value of the dollar.  This would trigger a worldwide selloff of foreign American stocks.  (For an additional lesson in economics, go to the theater next door for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”)    Basically, the movie just seems like an excuse to further demonize the Russians even after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Overall, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is way too stereotypical to be a good movie.  Featuring boring car chases, unfinished plot sequences and excess gun fights, “Jack Ryan” deserves to crawl back into the shadows.