‘Rabbit Hole’: Kiefer Sutherland on the run again, a little slower, a little warier

The action hero isn’t quite up to Jack Bauer speed anymore on frenetic Paramount+ spy thriller.

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Kiefer Sutherland plays an espionage operative suspected of murder on “Rabbit Hole.”

Paramount+

You wouldn’t believe all the craziness that Kiefer Sutherland encounters every 24 hours in the Paramount+ spy thriller series “Rabbit Hole,” but oh wait, you WOULD believe it or at least go with it, especially if you were a fan of the ludicrous but undeniably entertaining “24,” which ran for 10 seasons over a 13-year span on Fox and firmly established Sutherland as one of the go-to TV action stars of our time.

There’s no ticking clock/real time/split-screen gimmick to “Rabbit Hole,” but the pace is just as frenetic, and Sutherland is still a master at playing a growling, world-weary anti-hero who won’t hesitate to use any means necessary to stop the bad guys and get to the truth.

The difference between Jack Bauer and “Rabbit Hole” protagonist Jack Weir is that the 56-year-old Sutherland is playing a character who is about that age, which means Jack lumbers more than he runs, and when he squares off against a Gen Z skateboarder who has some nifty reverse turning kicks, it’s a mismatch.

‘Rabbit Hole’

Untitled

A series premiering with two episodes Sunday on Paramount+.

Sutherland’s John Weir is a highly paid freelance espionage operative who works with a small team of tech whizzes and sophisticated con artists to pull off elaborate jobs in which they can maneuver the stock market or fabricate the news in favor of their clients. Pretty cool stuff!

After one such successful endeavor, John’s seemingly charmed life continues into the night, when he meets the beautiful and whip-smart and just really cool Hailey (Meta Golding, doing splendid work), who is in town on business from Pittsburgh, and they wind up spending the night together. But the following morning, we see evidence of John’s paranoia when he’s convinced the hotel room is bugged and Hailey is working for … somebody.

“Rabbit Hole” kicks into the next gear when Weir takes a gig working for his old friend Valence (Jason Butler Harner, “Ozark”), and things go sideways in a hurry. A body ends up splattered on a sidewalk in Manhattan, a government executive goes missing and is presumed dead — and those giant screens in Times Square are blasting out images of the prime suspect, one John Weir.

Convinced Hailey is somehow mixed up in all of this, John sorta-kinda ... well, he does kidnap Hailey, but she quickly becomes his de facto partner as they go deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole to try to figure out who is framing John and why.

Through the first four episodes, we learn about John’s traumatic childhood in some strikingly well-rendered flashback sequences, and we meet a handful of key characters in present day. There’s Enid Graham’s FBI Agent Jo Madi, who in time-honored TV tradition is certain John is up to something but is always one step behind him, and the great Charles Dance as a legendary cloak-and-dagger operative who can you sit you down over coffee and convince you most of the crazy conspiracy conspiracies circling around are in fact true.

“Rabbit Hole” is one of those shows where nobody is being completely honest with one another and when someone says, “Can I trust you?,” you wonder why they bother asking. Of course no one can be trusted! That’s part of the fun.

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