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24: Redemption movie puts Action Jack back in harm's way before Season 7 follows suit

Jack's busy in Africa while Madame President takes the oath in D.C.

His venue's changed, but Jack Bauer's 24 playbook hasn't during Sunday night's prequel to January's Season 7 start-up.

From 3 to 5 p.m. in fictional, war-torn Sangala, Africa, Kiefer Sutherland's super-resilient soldier of misfortune has a prolonged gunfight, is tortured, loses another friend to a violent death and gets betrayed by a government official before again sacrificing himself for the greater good. 'Cause that's the way Jack rolls.

Fox's 24: Redemption (7 to 9 p.m. on Ch. 4 locally) otherwise is somewhat less predictable back in the USA. Newly elected president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) had her swearing-in ceremony aborted not by an international incident, but by the writers' strike. So what was supposed to be a possible boost for Hillary Clinton's campaign last January is now a case study in what might have been.

There's skullduggery afoot, of course. And defeated incumbent president Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe) seems to have a lot of Dick Cheney in him. The "imminent coup" in Sangala "isn't our war" because America has no vital interests there, he tells the president-elect.

But she worries about the slaughter of innocent people after declining Daniels' offer to join him in having a stiff drink before taking the oath.

"I appreciate your idealism," he tells her in a tone that says otherwise.

"I can't say the same for your cynicism," she counters.

Meanwhile, Jon Voight lurks in the person of Jonas Hodges, described in Fox press materials as a "malevolent mastermind" plotting to "fan the flames of the growing international crisis." As usual he'll be aided by a coterie of crooked government officials. Where's the vetting?

Hodges is only briefly seen in Sunday's movie, which is set four years after Season 6 ended with Jack on the lam and the U.S. government after him. So far he's defied those pesky subpoenas and hopes to remain in Sangala doing good deeds for kids in partnership with the goodly Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle).

But the nefarious "People's Freedom Army" is abducting those same kids to train them as killers for its twisted cause. So Jack's torn between helping out and avoiding capture by his own government, which wants to put him on trial for coaxing information out of bad guys via torture. What a country.

24: Redemption dutifully proceeds along these paths with a goal of setting up Season 7's two-part, four-hour premiere on Jan. 11-12. The movie is followed by a generous helping of coming attractions that show Jack on trial, lots of action and the return of presumed dead CTU agent Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) as a possible traitor.

Fox already has publicized all of these developments, which also include the disbanding of CTU but the return of popular agents Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Bill Buchanan (James Morrison).

24: Redemption, filmed in Cape Town, South Africa and L.A. is a serviceable although not exceptional place-setter that slightly shortens the unplanned, elongated gap between the May 2007 end of Season 6 and January's resumption of hostilities.

Be assured that Jack is the same old go-getter, emerging largely unmarked even after a brutish renegade presses the side of his face with a red-hot machete blade.

Meanwhile back home, Madame President airily quotes Alexis de Tocqueville in her inauguration speech.

"In every democracy, the people get the government they deserve," she tells the gathered masses.

24 keeps telling us that without Jack Bauer's interventions, that's a fatal combination.

Grade: B