'Jack Reacher' (2012) Movie Review

Rosamund Pike and Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher
Rosamund Pike and Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Jack Reacher? Who's Jack Reacher? Hi. Are you Jack Reacher? Oh... Jack Reacher...

Jack Reacher is not at all what I expected. It's a tonal hodgepodge of genre films from the murder-mysteries of the '40s, the whodunnits of the '70s and thrillers of the '90s. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun), the character development is on-the-nose, with little subtlety and very little is hidden from the audience as most of the pieces come together rather easily and we're left waiting for the characters on screen -- primarily Rosamund Pike -- to give their wide-eyed, open-mouth look of astonishment once they catch up with the audience.

Jack Reacher
Grade: C

Jack Reacher"Jack Reacher" is a Paramount Pictures release, directed by Christopher McQuarrie and is rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material.

The cast includes Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney.

There's something of a tongue-in-cheek nature to the way it all plays out, playful flirtation and hard-nosed street brawling to boot. But the narrative never quite gets into gear to the point it's moving of its own volition as much as it seems we're waiting for each scene to finally arrive with a hope that something will soon surprise us.

I wasn't necessarily bored watching it, but considering how picky Tom Cruise is when it comes to his films, I'm a little surprised he went for something this generic, with a character that has so little to reveal on most every level.

The titular Reacher is a character created by Lee Child in over 15 novels centered on the former Military Police Major. Described as 6' 5" tall and somewhere around 250 pounds in the novels, clearly the much smaller Cruise serves as a departure from the fictional character of Child's creation. Physical characteristics, however, are something I'm not too concerned about, especially since I haven't read the novels and only mention it so those that have are prepared.

The story begins, however, not with Reacher, but with an anonymous sniper, which we see plain as day and could pick out of a lineup if necessary. This guy takes out five strangers along a Pittsburgh river walk and after a brief investigation, the police have a suspect, James Barr (Joseph Sikora). Only problem, Barr clearly isn't the guy we just saw kill those five people.

During his interrogation by police investigator Emerson (a far-too-intense David Oyelowo) and the district attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins), Barr writes down one thing on a piece of paper, "GET JACK REACHER."

Next, Emerson is giving Rodin the background on the mysterious Reacher and how he's become a drifter since his days in the Army and little do they know, they won't have to go looking for him... he's already at their door.

Knock, knock.

"Who's there?"

"Jack Reacher."

"Well come on in, we were just about to look for you."

And that's about the extent of their background check before Reacher is in the hospital room with Barr, asking questions and placing blame.

One thing leads to another, Rodin's daughter, Helen (Rosamund Pike), brings daddy issues to the table and is serving as the defense lawyer for Barr, going up against her father who views the case as a slam dunk. Reacher eventually joins Helen as her lead investigator for reasons I'll leave for you to find out on your own, even though most of the cards are on the table by the 45 minute mark.

Jack Reacher bounces to a bit of a different beat and it plays as a rather dark thriller even if it never particularly feels like one. I was never all that intrigued by the villains, which include Werner Herzog in a rather thankless role and Jai Courtney (he'll be playing Bruce Willis' son in the upcoming A Good Day To Die Hard) as the muscle. These guys don't exactly seem all that professional, relying on low-level street thugs to do dirty work and then hanging around crime scenes after planting evidence. Why not just leave?

I did, however, enjoy seeing the Days of Thunder reunion as Robert Duvall shows up for the film's latter half for a bit of good ol' boy camaraderie, but even Duvall's involvement reaches a tipping point.

Cruise walks around as Reacher with little concern for his well-being, knowing full well he can take on any and all comers, even if that means a five-on-one street fight. Admittedly, at the age of 50, Cruise still has what it takes to take on an action role as a brawl between him and the 26-year-old Courtney is quite good, but what we're seeing here is nowhere near the intensity he brought to Vincent in Michael Mann's Collateral.

If there's a sign Cruise is beginning to show his age, it's that Jack Reacher, unless my memory fails me, is the first time we don't see Cruise in an extended running sequence. Instead of hitting the pavement with the soles of his shoes, this time he choses muscle cars to get him from point-A to point-B.

Getting back to the strange tonal feel of the pic, if anything, Reacher reminded me of Paul Newman's Harper, a serviceable film with an actor I very much enjoy, but far from his best. I only hope if Jack Reacher is able to get a sequel it turns out a lot better than The Drowning Pool.


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  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    Nice review Brad... I haven't seen it but am somewhat curious to. It seems like mindless entertainment, and that could be nice during the holidays. Plus every time I see tv spots they're full of those 'cool' lines from films you'd see in the 90's. Totally feels like a throwback. Could be kind of fun for nostalgias sake.

    Still, Django first... Django first.

  • adu

    Since both Django & Les Mis are not on the menu yet, I'm gonna be checking out Mr. Reacher this weekend.

  • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

    Yup. This is exactly how I felt when I saw it back in June. It appears that they haven't done much to change it, based on your review.

  • Dan

    Man, Jack Reacher was one of the most entertaining popcorn flicks I've seen in a WHILE. Total throwback. Goofy at just the right times, and Cruise killed it. Those action scenes were so spare and economical too. I guess everyone can't find the fun in that, but I was extremely entertained. Django is a damn good time, but it's no A+. I think that's pushing it as far as objectivity goes. Of course, I make exceptions for movies I love as well so I can't argue much about that. It's not better than Basterds, but that primary shoot-out was INSANE. I'm not sure the man will ever top the bar scene in Basterds, and probably the opening scene as well.

    • MajorFilmFan

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I'm probably in the minority when I say that I still like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. I respect what Nolan is trying to do by throwing back to the film noir style of film making (and yes, I think TDK and TDKR are film noirs in a sense). Brad also didn't like Les Mis, or the Hobbit. The Hobbit is my favorite movie of the year, and I have yet to see Les Mis, but just because he didn't like it doesn't mean that I'm not going to go out and watch it and hopefully enjoy the shit out of it. But not everyone loves ALL movies.

      • Dan

        Of course, of course. Though I must say, The Hobbit is your favorite movie of the year? Sure film is objective, but after that statement, I'm inclined to think I probably wouldn't agree with you on anything, MajorFilmFan. To each his own. The Comedy, The Master, and Holy Motors are my top three this year. And that's only because I count Kill List as 2011.

        • Nick

          You mean subjective, right?

  • John Doe Snow

    That's a bad news, I was anticipating this movie a lot :(

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    Strange that Werner Herzog is in this. Ya know, cause he's so anti-hollywood.

    • Jarrod

      Why is he so "anti-Hollywood"? He hates phoney-intellectualism, called The Dark Knight one of the best films of its year ("I ran into Christian and (director) Christopher Nolan, and said to Nolan ‘Congratulations, this is the most significant film of the whole year.’ He thought I was kind of making it up, or joking. And I said ‘No, no, no! This is a film of real substance. It doesn't matter if it’s mainstream or not.’ And it’s wonderful that he made the film the way he did") and prefers white ant art to elephant art ("Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film"). Just because he hasn't made a Hollywood film doesn't mean that he's 'anti-Hollywood'. THIS is why I predominantly comment on your comments, AS: because your opinions are lazy, and you feel little need to back up these assertions with anything of substance.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        Oh my god, you really are insane...

  • Winchester

    I might go and take a look at this next week when I'm on holiday alongside Life of Pi since most of the US Christmas hitters don't open in the UK til the New Year. The TV spots are starting to lower my expectations but I'm interested enough to give it a look.

  • Torryz

    Just saw it and even though it is predicable, I enjoyed it. I probably wouldn't see it again but since Silver Linings Playbook, Django and Zero Dark Thirty aren't playing near me, I don't have a lot of options.

  • Hurricane

    saw this movie today, if you like Tom Cruise it's pretty good even though you can feel the 130 minute run-time, especially in the middle. The action scenes are very good and more plausible than any Bond film ever, so that was refreshing

  • Andy Mikel
  • Joe

    I saw this yesterday and I feel your C grade is way too generous. I wasn't expecting much and I was quite disappointed. The first 15 minutes or so were really well done, but once Reacher entered the film it felt like it shifted gears into a poorly written (and acted) action made-for-tv mess. The delivery of lines seemed so stilted - especially the scene in the hallway of the hospital with 4 of the main characters. I couldn't tell if it was the script or the actors. And if it was the script (which was just dripping with dialogue and exposition from beginning to end,) I'm quite saddened since McQuarry has previously given us such excellent films. Perhaps it's the source material. But I do have to ask, why was this movie made and why did McQuarry and Cruise agree to participate?

  • Chris138

    It needed more Werner Herzog.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Roger/ Roger Judd

    Just saw it. Was an excellent rental.