Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Jack Reacher!

Jack Reacher is a decent enough action thriller that suffers from the hubris of its miscast star. A Tom Cruise production, starring Tom Cruise, it's a vanity project that fails to convince or connect, but is entertaining to watch, sometimes in spite of its flaws, and mostly because of them. Tom Cruise knows how to put on a show, even if it's of the side/freak variety.

To find out all that I felt... join me after the jump!

When five civilians are (seemingly) executed randomly in a city park, all evidence points to an ex-military sniper with a shady past. We know it wasn't him though, and in order to prove his innocence he requests Cruise's Jack Reacher, a former military investigator who has become somewhat of a ghost. (In the "difficult to track down" sense - not "rattling chains and flicking off light switches"). Reacher is reluctantly drawn into the case by the accused's defence attorney Helen (a wide-eyed, slack-jawed Rosamund Pike) and one clue leads to another as the truth unfolds...

Okay, can we talk about Tom Cruise?

Let's just talk about him as a person first, because I think it's important to put all biases on the table. I like Tom Cruise. Despite any barbs he faces about his personal life, he still appears in good films and often produces good work. Is he crazy? Probably. But I don't think he's necessarily crazy for all the reasons people claim. Is Scientology batshit insane? Of course it is! However, really those beliefs are no more or less crazy than any other batshit insane religion out there (yes, including all the popular ones) so let's agree to give him a pass on that one. I think Tom Cruise is "crazy" because he does things like jump maniacally on Oprah Winfrey's couch in a desperate, transparent attempt to convince the world that he's in love. So, really I don't think Cruise is "crazy". I just don't think he is very self aware.

And I think it's this lack of self-awareness that is why Jack Reacher ultimately fails. Does Tom Cruise realise that he's not really right for the part? I don't really know. Does he realise that he lacks comedic timing and often butchers adaptor/director Christopher McQuarrie's occasionally funny dialogue. I don't think Tom Cruise realises that when he snarls down a telephone that he's coming for a crook and is going to, "Drink his blood from a boot" that the audience is giggling. Liam Neeson could get away with that - I'd believe Liam Neeson's blood-boot drinking. Daniel Craig is a convincing badass too. But Tom Cruise doesn't have the gravitas. Jack Reacher is tough, and Tom Cruise kind of, sort of, skirts around being tough, but he's playing a role. I can't separate Tom Cruise the actor from Jack Reacher the character. And that severely hampers a film where believing that Cruise is a can-do-anything badass is central to the narrative.

At a point near the end (no spoilers) Cruise says something like, "One look at my face and you know I'm not bluffing". It's supposed to be tough but it's so silly. Don't tell us you're tough, Tom. Show us. Let us figure that out for ourselves. And as a result - and because I haven't ever read the original book by Lee Child - I'm never 100% sure who Jack Reacher is supposed to be. Is he a good guy? A bad guy? I don't mind the ambiguity there but it continues through every aspect of his character. Is he a wise-cracker? Is he humourless? A ladies man? A loner? What are his skills? We know he can fight, and there's certainly some fun sequences there as the plucky, diminutive Cruise takes down large groups of aggressors. And he's smart too, which I also respect. But his most referenced trait is his memory. Jack Reacher "doesn't need a pen". I wish that had been the tagline.

The flipside though? It's still entertaining. Overlong perhaps, and you have to be in the mood, but I enjoyed chuckling along to Cruise's quest. Say what you will about the man, he does have presence, and when it works it's great, and when it doesn't it's endearing/hilarious.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Rosamund Pike in the female lead is sweet but constantly shocked and agape, often way over-broadcasting her amazement or suspicion. Robert Duvall is depressingly old but incredibly enjoyable in the brief but important role he plays in the film's second half. But the real star of Jack Reacher for me is the genuinely terrifying Werner Herzog who deserves far more screen time than he has, but every second of it is gold. I won't spoil his role, but he's not a piano player.

I also have a lot of respect for Christopher McQuarrie who I think has real flair as a director (and writer) but in this "Tom Cruise production" I'm sure he was somewhat beholden to Tom Cruise. I have a feeling that he didn't always get everything he wanted out of Tom, but what can you do? (Although maybe he could have let Herzog direct for a while. He could have scared the shit out of him).

I hear that the film is reasonably faithful to the book - at least story-wise - so if you're eager to see it realised on the big screen then your experience will probably be completely different from mine. If Reacher is to become an ongoing series - and I don't wish it ill - then I do think the team will need to severely up the ante, and it wouldn't hurt Cruise to take a critical look at his work, and ramp up the performance. (I actually think he approached too much of it too humbly). Go crazy, Tom. It's what you do best.

I wouldn't recommend rushing out and seeing this but, then again, not much else is new. If you see most things then go along with some friends for a laugh. Cruise will certainly give you plenty to talk about.

(Spoilers!) I don't love to nitpick films, but perhaps someone out there can help. When Reacher is being chased by the cops and he abandons his car and hides at the bus stop, WHY ON EARTH do all the people waiting crowd around him to hide him, including that old guy giving him his cap?! They KNOW he is being pursued by police, and is therefore likely a CRIMINAL, and for all they know he just raped an entire high school, so WHY DO THEY PROTECT HIM? When he gets on the bus and gives the guy his cap back, the guy even gives him a smile like, "Haha, you beat them, you scamp!" That sequence was thoroughly bizarre to me. Was it simply because Tom Cruise is just so charismatic? We know that's not true.

What do you think?


  1. Oh my goodness, we left the cinema saying precisely everything you have said here... you've hit the nail on the head in all respects - it's a total vanity project on behalf of cruise (who I also like btw) and the lines are so so so cringey... that last line with the 'one look at me and you know Im tough' was the PITS... also, we laughed all the way home at the line where the bad guy asks 'do you have a pen' and reacher says menacingly 'I dont need one' ... ha ha we also thought this would make a better tagline for the movie!! And anyway, what bad ass dude asks "have you got a pen"???? hilarious.. even the totally contrived sequence about the serial number on the gun.. proving yet again, that he doesnt need a pen... lol lol I'm actually roaring laughing thinking about it... but yes it was entertaining and the chase scenes in the cars were good.

    1. If you watch it again and you listen to when he says "you got a pen?", you will hear him have a crackle in his voice. When he asks if he has a pen, it is showing that he is afraid of Jack Reacher. He's afraid because he just realized how dangerous Jack is to him, and that he isn't as bad ass as he thought himself to be. I think he didn't know what to say when Jack tells him that he means to beat him to death and drink his blood from a boot, and that he is in his blind spot and should be afraid. I think this is one of Toms best movies. Sadly, I have always been a fan of him, lol sorry, but this was definitely one his best. Overall, the movie was great, suspenseful, good action, and the story lines up well. And the bus stop scene was out of place, it was still a good scene. I don't think anyone will fully grasp that. Oh also, one of my favorite things about this movie is that Tom did all of the driving and the stunts. He is a damn good driver and I love the fact that he does his own stunts. In the last Mission Impossible movie he actually dangled from the building in the Dubai scene. That's balls there. Anyone actor willing to do that is fine by me.

  2. I think there was more to the bus stop scene that was just cut out. When Reacher gets out of the car, all of the people at the bus stop were looking away from him and towards the approaching bus. It was odd and is driving me crazy why they helped him because it soon appeared that they knew he was the one the police were looking for. I guess we will just have to wait for deleted and extended scenes on the DVD release. Anyway, that's my best theory.

  3. I thought it was because he was in a car. So the people at the bus stop will assume the police doesn't necessarily know what the suspect looks like, so it could any of them standing there. When you see a robbery you tend to hide away and not bring attention to yourself. People at a bus stop don't necessarily know each other so they could end up arrested if they pointed him out, cause for all they know Jack could say they're in on it too. And he was calm and posed as no threat to them, so they'd like to keep that way too.
    Another reason was how cheeky it was for him to leave the car rolling, walk over and then see all the police appear... all you'd need is a couple of guys who don't like the police (I personally don't) to help him out. Don't give a damn who he is or what he's done, the cops will always be worse.