Democrats, it seems, are into sex, while Republicans hyperventilate on power.
"Clear and Present Danger" recalls Richard Nixon's infamous declaration: "If the president does it, it's not against the law." Instead of the criminal crusade Nixon ran against his enemies, we have President Bennett (Donald Moffat), a man of Nixonian sleaze and Bushian density, who launches a private war against the Colombian drug cartel that has hijacked and murdered his very rich personal friend on the high seas. Bennett is motivated not by making things right in honor of his departed buddy, but by a deep personal desire for the $650,000,000 his pal was splitting with a drug lord (Miguel Sandoval).
Bennett seizes extralegal power in the timeworn way of the ignorant: "These drug cartels represent a clear and present danger to the vital security of the United States." Thus empowered, he initiates a deep cover operation with his White House staffers without informing the CIA's deputy director of intelligence, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford). Sound familiar? The White House aides are as elaborately ridiculous as Watergate's Erlichman, Haldeman and Liddy, upon whom they are clearly modeled. Come to think of it all the characters in this movie could have come from the last three Republican administrations. Democrats, it seems, are into sex, while Republicans hyperventilate on power.
Harrison Ford makes Jack Ryan a kind of sweet bumbler who telegraphs his emotions by the set of his jaw--tight, tighter, tightest for determination, anger and rage. We know he will get the job done and are happy to bob and weave in our seats with each new surprise. Director Phillip Noyce takes a long hour to lay out his plot in a "see Harrison run" manner, but at least he makes things clear. Henry Czerny, Harris Yulin, Miguel Sandoval and Joaquim de Alameida inject top quality evil into the proceedings, while Ann Archer brings her usual intelligent presence to the unenviable role of wife to one of the nation's top spies. Willem Dafoe creates good suspense as the mercenary who isn't quite sure who he's working for, and Hope Lange does a fine short turn as a U.S. senator.
Betrayal is a compelling theme for any story, and this movie is awash in it, as it would have to be in a story of drug runners, assassins and politicians. It's a noisy night full of heat-seeking missiles, jets, boats, bombs and bullets. The South American half of the movie is considerably more fun than the Washington half, in which the bad guys do their damage against an impossibly corny background of martial music and military imagery. Americans can be forgiven by now for being cynical about presidents telling lies while bands play and flags wave.
In this era of ethical bankruptcy, Hollywood has only to find a writer to capture the characters and events from the daily news: illegal covert wars, CIA moles, White House cover-ups. Writer Tom Clancy receives the material gratefully. If only it were fiction.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 490
Rating: PG-13 2h21m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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