Tom Cruise has played many action roles in the past. So how does he fare in the latest crime film from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie?
Let’s bitch it out…
Jack Reacher is like The General’s Daughter (West, 1999) crossed with a traditional Christopher McQuarrie film (The Usual Suspects, The Way Of The Gun). It’s an adult drama with occasional outbursts of violence involving a military man (here it’s the Army) who is smarter and more adept at solving crimes than others.
The crime in question is the shooting of five random civilians. In a masterfully shot opening sequence we see the crime unfold in tight, close-ups and a point of view shot through the rifle’s telescopic lens, breathless as the sniper picks out victims and then cuts them down.
Unfortunately this tension is never recaptured . The crime, we’re told, has been committed by an Army sniper that Reacher once knew, James Barr (Joseph Sikorra), but we immediately know this to be untrue, because we saw ‘Charlie’ (Jai Courtney) do it in the film’s first five minutes. That’s not a spoiler…it’s a fact. Unfortunately it takes nearly an hour for the characters to catch onto this. I usually call this the Columbo effect as the audience is in the know more than the characters. Some people might enjoy this, but I find it boring and tedious.
Reacher is brought in by Helen (Rosamund Pike), the defence attorney who takes up Barr’s case in a personal vendetta against her father, the DA (Richard Jenkins). This is a plotline that has no bearing on the film; it’s simply meant to justify Helen’s dedication to the case when the sh*t hits the fan.
The rest of the film is dedicated to Reacher first agreeing to investigate and then doing so with such determination that no knocks to the head by baseball bats or threats of imprisonment will deter him. The problem is that it all feels very familiar, and the ease with which a man nearly everyone is dubious of has in circumventing both the law and the justice system is laughable. Jack Reacher wants to be gritty and mature, but it also asks for a lot of suspension of disbelief, as well as a lot of investment (130 mins) for not a lot of pay-off (the reveal of why the crime was committed is laughably dull).
In a holiday movie season packed to the gills with films aimed at adults, it’s hardly surprising that Jack Reacher has struggled to break-through (to a certain extent this would be an average film if it didn’t star Tom Cruise). If you have a penchant for semi-realistic crime films there are worse ways to kill a few hours. If, however, you have other ‘must see’ films on your holiday wish list, this is a good ‘wait for video’ option.
- In terms of performance Cruise and Pike are fine, though Pike occasionally fumbles with the demands of McQuarrie’s trademark dialogue. Jenkins is wasted in his role as the DA
- The biggest WTF cast member is Werner Herzog as criminal mastermind The Zec. His scene with petty criminal Linsky (an underused Michael Raymond-James) is squirm inducing and he has a great deal of pathos in his line-delivery, but ultimately he’s barely used. I would have rather spent more time with him than many of the other characters if we’re being honest
- ‘Charlie’ is another interesting character, though we learn even less about him than we do The Zec. Actor Jai Courtney is one to watch though: he’ll pop up again this summer as the son of Bruce Willis’ John McClane in A Good Day To Die Hard
- My favourite character is poor doomed, slutty Sandy (Alexia Fast). Girl, you should a) have more self-respect and b) left town when you were told to
- Best action scene: the meth house battle between Reacher and a trio of in-over-their-head thugs
- Worst action scene: the entire finale. Long, overdue and anti-climatic, especially the final throwdown between ‘Charlie’ and Reacher. Someone pull out a gun and end this already
- Honourable Mention: The nighttime car chase scene. Points off for the conveniently dispersed cars as Reacher drives down the wrong side of the road, but bonus points for the tight framing and well-executed editing
- Of course, I’d rather repeat it all than suffer through the final five minutes as SPOILERS Helen randomly allows Barr, now awake from his film-long coma, to believe he committed the sniper attack. Why does she do this? So that we can have a memorable voice-over to end the film. Blah END SPOILERS
- Finally, when casting for the film was announced, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Cruise as Reacher. Fans of writer Lee Child’s source material were upset when the 5’7 actor was cast as the 6’5 character. If you’re new to the material, however, this won’t factor into your viewing experience. Believing in Cruise’s macho tough-guy capabilities, on the other hand…
Jack Reacher is now playing in theatres.