Movie Review Rewind: Jack Reacher (2012)
There are 17 novels (with more to come) by Lee Child about the journey of a former Army investigator named Jack Reacher. Now, I’m sure you have read a lot about the way Reacher is described physically in the books compared to the man who plays him onscreen. Long story short, he is a big, tall guy who does not give a damn how many laws he breaks while searching for the truth. He believes in what is right and has no problem resulting to violence to get his message across.
This leads us to Tom Cruise becoming Reacher. Cruise is in good physical shape (especially to be 50 years old). But, he isn’t huge and is definitely under six feet tall. But guess what? Cruise has a strong grip on the character and completely makes it his own. Reacher is no Ethan Hunt and while it may be easy to compare this movie to the Mission Impossible ones, they are not alike. Not by a long shot.
Jack Reacher kicks off with an oppressive assassination, from a distance, killing a handful of random citizens (or so we believe) in broad day light. Less than 24 hours later, the police have their suspect in custody. It seems like an open-and-shut case. But using only a pen and paper, he writes down the name ‘Jack Reacher’ (Cruise) because they share a past. However, it may not be in the suspect’s best interest to bring him back. Reacher does not like him and personally hopes the man accused is guilty and gets what he deserves. So why does he request Reacher? Well the answer is simple. Reacher may not like you, but he is a fair man and is really good at what he does. Actually, he is the absolute best at what he does.
Helen (Rosamund Pike), the murder suspect’s lawyer, hires Reacher to dig a little deeper. She gives him access to evidence the police do not want to hand over. Lead investigating detective (David Oyelowo) believes they have the right guy and District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins), who also happens to be Helen’s father, wants the mess cleaned up in a hurry because having such a horrendous event happening on your watch doesn’t look too good the longer it takes to solve it. Reacher is a steady thorn in their side because he wants the truth while everyone else just wants this to be put behind them and forgotten as quickly as possible.
Reacher’s search for justice captures the attention of an old school criminal named The Zec played by Werner Herzog, who is best known as the director of documentaries such as Grizzly Man and Into the Abyss and films like Rescue Dawn and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call- New Orleans. Herzog is perfectly cast because he is kind of a weird guy in real life. Only he could identify with a man who goes by The Zec. He may be the boss, but spends most of the time in the dark. It is his right hand man (Jai Courtney) who not only serves as the enforcer, but is the one who spends most of his time trying to end Reacher’s investigation and life.
Their final showdown in the rain is a simple man-to-man fight that is just cool to watch. It’s the exact opposite of flashy and over-the-top. It contains a sense of realism and makes the audience wish they were there to see it in person.
Unfortunately, Herzog doesn’t get to say much and Jenkins’ talent is almost completely wasted in this film. But, Pike is terrific and plays a character who serves a real purpose to Reacher and to the plot itself. She is conflicted at first on representing a person who allegedly killed innocent people for no reason. She is putting her reputation on the line and going against everyone she knows because they think she is making a huge mistake by taking this case on. But she is an intelligent, strong woman who wants the truth just as badly as Reacher does.
Pike’s chemistry with Cruise works. There are hints of romance between the two, but it’s all business for the most part. What a shame. Then, there is Mr. Robert Duvall. He plays a retired sniper who owns a gun range that becomes very important to finding out who the real shooter is. It’s a fun role for Duvall and he always shows up the moment the movie needs him. Who wouldn’t want his help if ever given the choice?
Now, let’s get to Cruise because Jack Reacher is all his and he knows it. No matter how you felt when you first heard about Cruise being cast as Reacher, go see him in the role. You won’t be disappointed. He is not only a reliable actor. But, he’s one of the most recognizable action heroes to ever be on the big screen. Earlier, I brought up the difference between Reacher and Hunt and how they resemble nothing of each other. Hunt is a polished, very confident character who loves gadgets and heights. On the other hand, you have Reacher who is rough around the edges with a dark, dry sense of humor. He is also one hell of a shot. He is a trained killer with a mysterious past who is now a drifter looking for trouble.
Reacher is a guy who pays attention to every detail and doesn’t have to write a single thing down. And what makes the film stand out is the way Cruise carries himself through the film being a steady force that is going full steam ahead. It makes the movie entertaining, exciting, and leaves you craving for more. Physically, Cruise may not be the Reacher written on the page. But, onscreen he brings the attitude, charisma, and energy that pushes the movie into overdrive and never stalls. Cruise knows what works for him and puts all of his effort into making it work for the audience as well.
Christopher McQuarrie directs Jack Reacher in a straight-forward, attention-grabbing way that sets the tone for the entire movie and prepares you for one hell of a ride. McQuarrie is famous for being a writer (The Usual Suspects), leaving most people trying to remember the last movie he directed. Well, let me put your mind at ease. The Way of the Gun was McQuarrie’s last directorial effort way back in 2000. It was a well done movie starring Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro, but has been easily forgotten.
So, quite a bit of time has passed and he’s back with a vengeance. With the car chases, hand-to-hand combat, and shoot-outs, McQuarrie knows the pace that is only appropriate for a movie like this. He executes it very well. The action sequences aren’t the only parts that he does right. The process of the investigation with all of the twists and turns that come along with it is impressive and cleverly done. Things begin to be uncovered, but are not thrown at you all at once. Instead, they are revealed piece by piece which adds to the thrills.
Jack Reacher does not take long to pick up speed and once it does, it never slows down. It’s violent at times and relentless all the time. Cruise’s Reacher brings the right amount of intensity to each scene and is unapologetic for it. McQuarrie makes a lean action thriller that should put him back on the map. And as for Cruise, I say it’s time to pick up and leave M:I and start kicking a new kind of ass in what could be a solid, refreshing, and successful franchise in the making.
“Nature Boy” Brandon Vick is the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and star of Brandon’s Box Office In Your Mouth. Follow him on Twitter@SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.