The third screen treatment of Tom Clancy's best-selling Jack Ryan series is a sharp improvement over THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and PATRIOT GAMES. It's a formula film with a typically dubious political message, but the storytelling is livelier and more engaging than previous adaptations of

Clancy's turgid techno-thrillers.

This time out, CIA administrator Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is pitted against Medellin drug kingpin Escobedo (Miguel Sandoval). Ryan's investigation of a string of assassinations leads him to Colombia, where he teams up with a covert team of American soldiers led by Clark (Willem Dafoe) and runs

afoul of the duplicitous President Bennett (Donald Moffat).

CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER develops a multi-track story line of some substance. A solid screenplay neatly follows Jack's investigation into both the drug cartel and the White House cover-ups, while proficiently depicting Clark's covert war and Escobedo's machinations. Politically speaking, the film

presents less of a rightward thrust than the red-baiting OCTOBER or the neo-monarchist PATRIOT GAMES.

For director Phillip Noyce, the film--a smash hit--represents a smart recovery from the disastrous SLIVER. Harrison Ford lends a klutzy charm to the role of Jack Ryan that was missing from his first turn in the role; the best performance, however, comes from Sandoval, who manages to create more

sympathy for his character than the film probably intended.