Sum equals nada

The Sum of All Fears Starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0 It’s this simple: The Sum Of All Fears is a thriller that does not thrill. Given the talent involved, it comes as a mild surprise that this latest big-screen translation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series is so tepid and lusterless.

Sum relaunches the series with Ben Affleck as newbie CIA analyst Ryan, the hyper-smart hero of this oddly uneven spy series.

Here, Ryan’s brain is tapped in the halls of power when an obscure Russian politico becomes president of Russia just as a motley group of nuke-toting terrorists is trying to start a war between Russia and the U.S.

Several things are wrong here.

Although Affleck is affable in the early scenes, he doesn’t have the razor’s edge of anger required to push through fits and turns of suspense as the climax (given away in the trailers) nears. I’ve loved Affleck, but something essential is missing in Ryan’s righteous-anger blowouts, a Clancy trademark. Pile on Phil Alden Robinson’s weirdly dated directing (this plays like a mid-grade 1988 thriller), and there’s nothing to rail against so much as nothing to recommend.

The script is too confused for thrills. Just enough of Clancy’s story was changed to botch the logic of action, the essential drive for buyable suspense. This stems from Paramount Pictures’ pre-Sept. 11 political correctness, which excised the researched and humanized Iranian-backed terrorists from the book and replaced them with the hackneyed Hollywood staple, neo-Nazis.

This is most galling in the opening scenes, which show an Israeli jet in the 1973 Yom Kippur War shot down while carrying a nuclear bomb destined for Egyptian forces. That bomb eventually lands in America via fiendish neo-Nazi plotting. It seems that, although the sensitivities of Hollywood are too tender to show struggling, desperate Arabs resorting to nuclear violence, they are just fine with portraying desperate Israelis ready and willing to do the same vicious act.

This film isn’t bad. It just sits there as the latest compromise from the Hollywood blanding factory.