Jack Ryan rides again on Amazon Prime, busted back down to early-career espionage somewhere near the CIA’s mail room—the curse of workable IP circling back around like a comet. I joined some of the dots in Ryan’s shift from tackling 20th Century Soviet extremism to the 21st Century Islamist version for Sight & Sound, a change that among other things requires a CIA of good-guy team players on the right side of useless. It involves a delve into the mindset of difficult men too, something VOD series still wear as a badge of entry to the club, even though it’s been clear for a while now that only David Lynch really knows the score there.
The Predator’s finale was fiddled with and reshot, which is pretty symptomatic of an era when even films so High Concept they’re in Earth orbit still don’t satisfy the people who paid for them when they see them—but not as symptomatic as the fact that it still makes no sense at all. Spotting why the new film is a flub compared to Predator from three decades ago would need a conversation about form rather than content, and they don’t currently happen, but a film that needs a Predator to explain what it’s up to in English through a loudspeaker may have succumbed to self-doubt. There’s some half-decent pastiche in the bunch of scuzzy disreputable males bumbling through an alien invasion, the kind of thing John Carpenter doesn’t do anymore but which was a solid B-movie staple for more reasons than just the accumulated machismo. This bunch hovers around an unconscious Oliva Munn leaving little presents, like the seven psycho dwarves. But I’m not sure I ever wanted Munn to get dragged into the action hero stream, even if those years she spent busking on cable TV stuffing six sausages in her mouth before leaping into a large flan have bred a healthy lack of on-screen pretension. Plus she served her time speaking Aaron Sorkin dialogue and keeping up with the cast of The Newsroom; useful when speaking Shane Black’s attempt at copying what he read about screwball rhythms in a textbook. Her character is a skilled scientist in a semi-transparent lab coat, knows how to unleash ballistic death from large automatic weapons, and at one point is compelled by the plot to strip naked in a crisis. The film stops short of combining the shooting and the stripping in the same scene, but we can assume it was considered.