The rule of thumb in Hollywood is that a sequel should rake in at least 60 percent as much money as the original movie. One wonders if the unspoken correlative is that sequels have to be only 60 percent as good.
This movie, based on yet another of Tom Clancy's best-selling political thrillers, is actually more like 70 percent as good as its predecessor, 1992's Patriot Games. But that's not saying a lot. What Clear lacks, and what Games (itself a sequel to '90's The Hunt for Red October, which starred Alec Baldwin in the CIA hotshot role) had, is a compelling human story at its center. Although both films were directed by Phillip Noyce, the characters in Clear are nothing more than archetypes (straight-arrow hero, pampered drug lord, weaselly presidential aide). All, moreover, play second fiddle to an overly complicated plot about a covert military operation in Colombia.
The cast is fine, as far as they are allowed to go. Ford, able with a single shrug or raise of an eyebrow to convey great moral rectitude, shows again why he's such a pleasing and reliable actor. Archer, repeating her role as his surgeon wife, has nothing to do but be supportive and let her lower lip tremble with worry. Dafoe plays a mercenary as if he were reading scripts for better movies in between takes. As the villain, Joaquim de Almeida registers as much for his dark good looks as for his smoothie ways; and Ann Magnuson has a particularly thankless part as a woman who loves unwisely. James Earl Jones, Donald Moffat and Harris Yulin all contribute practiced turns as old Washington hands. (PG-13)"