Title: Jack Reacher
So...How Badly Does Tom Cruise Screw Things Up? He doesn't. I'll get into this more later, but the problems in the film aren't Cruise's fault. He can't help it that he's short, y'all.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Martin Riggs happy face targets out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Former MP/current drifter investigates sniper attack at behest of shooter, drives fast, and breaks many jawbones.
Tagline: "The law has limits. He does not."
Better Tagline: "Big things come in small packages."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: An ex-Army sniper named James Barr murders five people in Pittsburgh and, following his arrest, instructs the police to "get Jack Reacher." Reacher (Cruise) has a history with the shooter, having arrested him for murder in Iraq. He nonetheless agrees to serve as lead investigator for Barr's attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), a decision which (naturally) threatens to uncover larger, more sinister forces at work.
"Critical" Analysis: I'm a fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books and have read about half of them (there are 17 total). And I admit, when it was announced they'd cast 5' 7" Tom Cruise to play the 6' 5", 250 pound character, why reaction was not fit for printing on a family blog.
Of course, this isn't a family blog. My reaction was: "Are you fucking kidding me?"
So first, the good news: Cruise does as capable a job of channeling Child's taciturn, remorseless murder machine as can be expected. Readers of the books may not get on board with him being barely taller than the female lead, but they have to at least agree he manages to capture the character's mannerisms and deadly efficiency as a deliverer of severe body trauma.
That said, there's a moment so reminiscent of 80s action cinema which will probably cause the most consternation among Lee Child fans (not counting the whole height thing). At one point, Reacher has the drop on a bad guy responsible for some very bad things, but he chooses instead to throw down his weapon and fight the guy hand-to-hand. That's a move more suitable to Lethal Weapon than "book Reacher," who would've put two in the guy's head without blinking an eye.
As for everybody else, Jack Reacher is somewhat more than a pretty straightforward throwback action movie in the mold of: mysterious loner comes to town to solve a problem and deals out a few ass-kickings while solving the larger mystery before rescuing the damsel in distress and dispensing some final justice. It's not wall-to-wall action, by any means, and a great deal more time is spent actually investigating the crime than you might assume.
Director Christopher McQuarrie (who also adapted Child's novel One Shot for the screenplay) has a decent grasp on how to shoot coherent action sequences (though you may not have gathered this from his previous effort, Way of the Gun). Come to think of it, this also contributes to the retro feel. There are no Tony Scott (RIP) style jump cuts or shaky cam moments during the fight scenes, for example. And I know I'm not the only one who appreciates a lack of ambiguity when watching a dude get his testicles crushed.
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They've also pulled in a few heavy hitters to round out the rest of the cast, including Richard Jenkins (as Helen's father, the District Attorney), Robery Duvall, and Werner Herzog. Pike isn't too forgettable as a character beefed up for the movie. And I'll confess to not a little appreciation for her character's penchant for tight blouses. There are also a handful of asides to A Few Good Men for the attentive, which kind of makes sense, since Reacher often comes across like Daniel Kaffee's hard ass big brother.
Jack Reacher isn't great cinema, but it's a pretty good crime flick. And even though it's next to impossible to separate onscreen Cruise from his real life weirdness, he (mostly) sold me.