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Bad guys, almost as much as technology, date films. Libyan terrorists and a world without cell phones? Must be the eighties, or the early nineties. While some genres (like romantic comedies) still work in a dated setting, action films seem as though they should only take place in the present.
Which is why older action films are either highly entertaining... or totally unwatchable. It's thanks to action-hunk Harrison Ford that Patriot Games -- despite its Libyan terrorists, cell-free setting and Irish Republican Army plot -- succeeds in entertaining more than 15 years after it hit theaters.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, action movie plots suddenly had to scramble for storylines that didn't rely on Communist baddies with thick accents: Enter the IRA.
These days, Irish bad guys in action flicks are always former IRA members, not participants in an ongoing armed conflict. Thriller logic goes like this: When the IRA officially disbanded, decommissioning all arms in 2005, it put a lot of professional bad guys out of work. So all those bomb makers, arms dealers and soldiers show up as the mercenaries the bad guys hire to really stick it to the good guys.
When Patriot Games -- the novel and the film -- were released, the IRA and the horrible violence in Northern Ireland still loomed large. Watching Harrison Ford, as CIA operative Jack Ryan, chase down Sean MIller, leader of the Ulster Liberation Army (the movie's fictional branch of the IRA), is like a trip down bad guy memory lane. And, what do you know? Miller is in cahoots with Muammar al-Gaddafi himself, that specter of international politics past. In twenty years we'll find the North Korean and Al Qaeda terrorists who skulk through the shadows in modern action movies just as dated... one hopes.
The IRA was a vicious terrorist organization, but leave it to Harrison Ford to single-handedly settle the Irish conflict. In 1997 he starred in The Devil's Own, another movie where he has to take down an IRA operative. That time around though, Brad Pitt is the bad guy, and he makes for a much better looking terrorist than Sean Bean in Patriot Games.
Watch Patriot Games, Thursday, April 03 @ 8PM | 7C or Friday, April 4 @ 5:30 PM | 4:30 C. For a complete schedule, click here.