While I’m here patiently waiting for Django Unchained to come out, I figured I might as well catch this mildly interesting looking action/dirty-cop/thriller. After seeing it, I’m wondering if Tyler Perry is watching and wishing he had an ounce of Cruise’s charisma. If that was the case then maybe, just maybe, Alex Cross wouldn’t have been such an all around disaster. While it ranks among the most predictable and formulaic movies of the year, Jack Reacher makes heavy use of Cruise’s cool appeal and manages to be an entertaining, above average action thriller.
After a seemingly random mass shooting is linked to an Iraq veteran sniper, Barr (Joseph Sikora) only asks for one person in his defense; an ex Military Policeman named Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). After seeing Barr’s picture and the accusations against him on the news, Reacher seeks out Emerson (David Oyelowo), Barr’s arresting officer, and Rodin (Richard Jenkins), the prosecuting defense attorney who aims to put away Barr for the rest of his life. Reacher reveals that he is no friend of Barr’s, but that he was charged with investigating the man’s murder of four Private Military contractors in Iraq years previously. As he looks closer at the case, he starts to find that things are not what they seem, and begins to investigate the crime on behalf of Barr’s attorney, Helen (Rosamund Pike). It soon becomes clear that Barr was in fact set up, and that the people who orchestrated it will stop at nothing to prevent Reacher from finding the truth.
As a quick note, I always hate it when trailers give away the main plot points of a movie, and that is something that Jack Reacher is absolutely guilty of. We already know from the trailer that Barr was set up, and that Helen will eventually be kidnapped by the bad guys to give Reacher a damsel in distress to rescue. This robs the vast majority of the beginning of the movie of any sort of suspense, which is yet another nail in the coffin of an already predictable plot.
When it comes down to it, the one factor that will make you love or hate this movie is whether or not you like Tom Cruise. Like Con Air was to Nic Cage, Jack Reacher plays out as one huge vanity project for Cruise, with every girl fawning over him and his leather jacket (apparently not caring that the guy is well over twice their age…). A big part of this is that the script is written so as to allow him to be a badass without ever diverting him from absolute good-guy status. Another part is Cruise’s incredible smugness, which made it a bit difficult for me to enjoy his character at times. That being said, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie gives him his fair share of snappy dialogue to make it all bearable and even enjoyable at times (Though I did share Helen’s request at one point in the film, “Would you PLEASE just put a shirt on?”)
Rosamund Pike is almost entirely forgettable as Cruise’s obligatory female counterpart, though the costume department seemed to be intent on utilizing her cleavage as much as possible to try to compensate for how flat and stereotypical her character is. I do love Richard Jenkins, and he’s at least given a few chances to bring his dry humor to the screen, but for the most part he’s delegated to the anti-Reacher party and becomes a victim of the cliché battle of dirty cop vs. the law.
The only mentionable bad guy would be Werner Herzog as Zek, who has the necessary German accent to play the villain but is given nowhere near the amount of development that would have been necessary for him to stand along similar action villains like Dennis Hopper (Speed) or Alan Rickman (Die Hard). I really felt like a stronger villain would have made for an overall stronger film, or perhaps at least a bit more of an explanation for the motivation to kill 6 innocent people for some other reason than the one that is briefly presented in the film. As it stands in Jack Reacher, the only reason we apparently need is “This guy has f*cked up eyes and an accent, thus he is bad and must do bad things to maintain his bad-ness”.
Oh yeah, and then there’s Robert Duvall, because… screw it, you don’t need a reason. Apparently it’s perfectly natural to meet someone for the first time and then, 12 hours later, join them in an assault on a base held by heavily armed criminals.
The Verdict: 6.5/10 Perfectly Adequate
+ Cruise is very charismatic and enjoyable if you can stand his smugness
+ The dialogue is lively enough and the action abundant enough to successfully entertain
- Incredibly predictable and formulaic, robs the film of most of its suspense
- Very few memorable supporting characters
Cinematic Katzenammer: 7.5/10
Devil’s Advocates: 3.5/5
The Code is Zeek: 3.5/5