Though lacking in almost all respects, Jack Reacher isn’t as terrible as you might think.
Most detrimental to the film is director Christopher McQuarrie and his detached sense of style. Fun suffers in the name of seriousness at almost every turn and his palette is cleansed of the kinds of idiosyncrasies that may have given the story the spark it needed. When dealing with a homicidal sniper, the serious approach would generally be justified. But the ‘whodunit’ narrative is devoid of any real interest or stakes as its twists are often predictable and when they’re not, they’re hollow. Couple this with the film’s air of over-production (credit to Tom Cruise) and the wooden performances from its leads (credit to Tom Cruise) and you’ve got technically solid, yet lifeless drama. Most frustrating of all is the fact that this dynamic is applied to source material so chock full of pulpy action clichés that it belongs to a class of action film we haven’t seen since the 90’s.
[[MORE]]Author Lee Child’s creation is a gold mine. The premise centres on the elusive titular military investigator who’s lured out of hiding to delve into a case involving a murderous sniper and Werner Herzog. Reacher lives a drifter’s lifestyle - no home, no car and no assets other than the clothes on his back. Much of the exposition involves Cruise strolling around town spouting off snappy, smartarse remarks and making investigative assumptions based on heightened intuition, rather than actual detective work. At the briefest of times, it’s actually great. However, with it’s entitled air, this just ends up being another aspect that completely sucks the intrigue from the plot. Almost all of the revelations happen off-screen and at no point do you feel Reacher has actually uncovered any evidence, none that would stick in court at least. Which is a problem, as that’s basically his job. Then again, Reacher doesn’t deal in courtroom justice. He is his own brand of righteousness.
If this beautifully ridiculous story was done right, you’d have gotten more than enough B-grade splendour to last you the season. However, the powers that be saw a little more money to be made in the story and gave it a big-budget makeover, thus robbing it of the real treatment it needed.
Scripting and production flaws aside, it has to be said that the film’s action sequences are excellently staged. The mid-point car chase showcases some truly uncanny direction and its beats are doled out perfectly. It all plays out without music, reminiscent of the chases from Bullitt and The French Connection. The fight scenes, too, are well composed. Jack Reacher is one of those rare Tom Cruise films that convince you a 4-foot megalomaniac could actually beat down a group of ruffians. The fact that Lee Child’s version of Jack was over 100 kilos and 6 foot 5 tall is a painful reminder that, without Tom Cruise and his money, this movie would’ve been fucking awesome.
Underneath the film’s façade of self-importance lies what could have been a genuinely fun romp and though it’s had the life squeezed out of it, there a moments in which you can still feel the gurgling of Child’s flippancy. Most notable is Werner Herzog (referred to only as ‘The Zec’), whose campy bad guy performance is pitch perfect (keep an eye out for the scene in which he explains how he lost his fingers). Digit-less baddies are no way near enough to dissuade your disappointment though.