Jack Reacher Review By Adam
Man, Tom Cruise cops some shit. Every time he makes a film (which is often, the dude has been pumping them out since 1981) people whinge about his involvement. Cruise is too this, Cruise is too that. Check out his previous film, Rock of Ages, for concrete proof. Everyone had their panties in a twist when it was announced that Cruise would be playing the lecherous Stacey Jaxx. And guess what? He was the best thing in Ages – by a country mile. He even managed to out-Bon Jovi Jon Bon Jovi. Unfortunately, the naysaying didn’t quit with Ages. The minute it was announced that Cruise would be playing Jack Reacher, the title character of Lee Child’s series of novels, the bullshit began – mainly about his height. He’s too short to play (the 6 ‘5) Reacher, they cried. But honestly, who gives a solitary fuck about Reacher’s height? Unless you cast Yao Ming as Bilbo Baggins, what bearing does height have on a characterisation? Thank Christ that Cruise has an unwavering sense of self, as Jack Reacher is old school action dynamite. The kind of bona fide star vehicle actors used to make before they thought every one of their films had to be a commentary on America’s foreign policy or how shit things are in Sudan.
Taking its plot from the ninth book (titled One Shot) in Lee Child’s series, Jack Reacheropens with an assassin (Jai Courtney) opening fire on civilians in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The cops snap the case up quickly, blaming the massacre on the unbalanced ex-marine James Barr (Joseph Sikora). But before Barr can face trial he is conveniently (not so much for him) beaten into a coma. Barr’s last comment to the cops is ‘get Jack Reacher’. This isn’t a bad move, as Jack Reacher turns out to be a nomadic, hard-arse ex-military cop who throat-punches injustice. Reacher, smelling a rat, sets out to find the real culprit and, ahem, throat punch the shit out of them.
From the get go Jack Reacher grabs your attention. In a move bordering on a miracle, director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun) makes us forget about this film’s PG-13 rating (an ‘M’ in Australia) and hits us with calculated (and well edited) brutality. After the hugely effective opening scene, Macquarie turns the screws. We know who the killer is but our resourceful hero does not. McQuarrie could have wrung more suspense out of obscuring the assassin’s identity, but instead he goes a different route: Jack Reacher isn’t a ‘whodunit’, but a ‘whydoit’. Instead of pure suspense McQuarrie offers up a multitude of joyously (if not ridiculously) badass moments where Tom Cruise, sorry, Jack Reacher shows an inhuman amount of ingenuity.
As for Mr Cruise himself, he rocks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cruise cannot traditionally act. He never changes his accent, walk or mannerisms. Ever. Yet almost all of his roles are idiosyncratic. Why? Because Cruise truly believes he is the character. It may be batshit crazy but it works. If you talked to Cruise on the set of Reacher and asked him How tall are you, Tom? I bet he would reply 6’5. He wouldn’t be wrong because Cruise fucking is Jack Reacher. He looks great for a guy who just turned 50 and handles the punchy action with aplomb. He also delivers Child’s snarky, hard bitten dialogue with a glacial coolness. I hope he takes this character and runs with it.
Despite being dwarfed by Cruise, Reacher’s supporting cast doesn’t have a single weak link. Rosamund Pike offers spunky (and gorgeous) support as Reacher’s unwilling partner. Robert Duvall is a hoot as a wily old timer still up for some action. Richard Jenkins keeps up his unspoken promise to be in every film ever made and in a bizarre (but effective) choice director Werner Herzog appears as this film’s big bad, the Zec, an ice cold bastard that gnawed off his own fingers to survive a gulag. Tasty. Reacher’s big surprise is Jai Courtney. This young Aussie hunk has been picked from relative obscurity (he’s been on TV’s Spartacus) to be Cruise’s main antagonist—no small feat for your first Hollywood feature — and miraculously he pulls it off. Courtney’s next gig is monstrous: he is playing John McClane’s son in A Good Day to Die Hard. Due to his solid, menacing work in Reachermy fears of a prissy passing of the torch are alleviated.
Director Christopher McQuarrie may be primarily known for his writing prowess (The Usual Suspects), but he is no slouch in the director’s chair. He has a firm handle on action (think: Taken) and many of Reacher’s sequences have an impressive fluidity. Helped by the great cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (he’s Zooey’s dad!), McQuarrie shots Reacher in a clear, efficient way that is devoid of the Parkinson’s-cam that ruins many modern action films. It would seem that I’m not the only one impressed with McQuarrie’s directing chops, due to his solid work here (and, I imagine, his relationship with Mr Cruise) McQuarrie has been handed the keys to the illustrious Mission Impossible franchise. Big leagues indeed.
I think the reason I liked Reacher so much is its core simplicity. The film doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Reacher is only interested in keeping you engrossed and occasionally quickening your pulse. In this regard, the film feels like a throwback to a simpler cinematic landscape, one where entertainment was king. This film walks a perfect middle ground for a star vehicle; it isn’t wrapped in cloying political commentary (Hello, Mr Clooney) or garish special effects (Hello,Mr Smith). It’s disposable entertainment but at least it lives up to both the words. Hell, the best special effect in Reacher is Jack himself: a true cinematic badass. No shit, this film ends with Cruise heading to the back of the bus to stomp the lights out of a woman beater. Fuck yeah. (Though I must add, that scene is nowhere near as good as the one below).