Picks and Pans Review: Patriot Games
Westerns are out of fashion. We don't have the Russkies to kick around anymore. What's a poor action-movie hero to do? Thank badness for terrorists.
In this shoot-'em-up, punch-'em-out adaptation of Tom Clancy's novel, Ford (Witness), as Jack Ryan, the former CIA analyst turned Naval Academy professor (played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October), tangles nonstop with an Irish Republican splinter group of militants who become homicidally miffed when Ford, in London on vacation, thwarts an attempt to assassinate a member of the royal family. As the murderous revolutionaries, Bergin (Sleeping with the Enemy) and the especially intense Sean (Stormy Monday) Bean are convincingly fanatical and ruthless, although director Phillip (Dead Calm) Noyce and screenwriters Donald (The Hunt for Red October) Stewart and W. Peter (Point Break) Iliff transform them into remarkably inept terrorists at crucial moments.
Their failures, though, do allow Ford plenty of derring-do chances. Jaw set as firmly as ever, he satisfyingly smites the bad guys who are stalking not only him but his eye-surgeon wife (Fatal Attraction's Archer) and their preteen daughter, played by Thora (Paradise) Birch.
Noyce and his second-unit director, David R. Ellis, stage the fight scenes with great vigor. There is one scene, where Ford and his family are besieged in their Chesapeake Bay home by the terrorists, that generates particular tension.
The cast also includes James Earl (Field of Dreams) Jones as the CIA director, Richard (The Field) Harris as an Irish elder statesman, and James (The Russia House) Fox as the menaced royal cousin. The real costars, though, are automatic weapons. This is an old-fashioned, good guys-bad guys film that shoots first and never gets around to asking questions at all. (R)