Some films try new things, so even if they don’t quite work they can be forgiven. At least they tried something different. Not Patriot Games. Patriot Games is happy to be the same. The same as a hundred thousand other action/thrillers out there. The same, the same and more of the same, with not a single distinguishing feature to make it stand out from the crowd.
It’s the second film to feature CIA pencil pusher Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford), the first being The Hunt for Red October, where Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin. This time round, on a trip to London, Ryan inadvertently becomes involved with the IRA when he ruins a plot to kill a minor royal. Rather than focusing on their goal of Irish nationalism, they go after Jack personally, who returns to the CIA from his teaching job and blah blah blah.
This plot could pretty much be any action film out there, and while most manage to at least have some memorable moments along the way, Patriot Games stays in your mind about as long as the name of the person on the other end of the line in a call centre. Plenty of good action films have unremarkable plots, but make up for it with things like interesting characters, humour or impressive action sequences. Patriot Games recruits an army of talented, well known faces (Ford, Samuel L Jackson, Sean Bean, Richard Harris, James Earl Jones) and has them play stock characters that are about as interesting as a newspaper the day after a new member of the royal family is spawned. CIA? More like CBA.
The acting’s not bad. The main villain is played by Sean Bean, who successfully holds down an Irish accent for the duration of the film. The action’s done pretty much as you’d expect. Similar to World War Z it’s not boring or badly made, just completely and utterly average in every way. There’s no wit, no innovation and no attempt to make it stand out in the slightest. If you like this sort of film you at least know what you’re getting, but it’ so middle of the road it’s doomed to get hit by every car except George Michael’s. This month sees yet another reworking of the Jack Ryan brand. Hopefully they find some way to spice it up a bit.