While Denzel Washington has always been able to pull an excellent performance in any movie he’s been in, regardless of the movie’s quality. Tom Cruise’s movies on the other hand have usually been good or decent despite his less than impressive performance (ok, maybe not Knight and Day). The guy can definitely pick the right movies, the right director and screen writer that despite any weaknesses he has as an actor (Cruise acts the same with any role he plays), his movies often end up at the very least entertaining. Such is the case with “Jack Reacher”, a film loosely based on the novel “One Shot” by Lee Child and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise plays the title character. Despite the fact I didn’t think that he sold his character, “Jack Reacher” is a solid movie for guys during the Christmas season.
When a sniper kills five people in Pittsburgh, all evidence seems to conveniently point to an ex-army sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora) and so the cops and the district attorney (Richard Jenkins) believe that it is an easy case to prosecute. But once news of the incident reaches Miami, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), an ex-military cop resurfaces. Reacher has a history with Barr, and he intends to make sure justice is done. However, everything appears a little too clean, that once Reacher and Barr’s defense lawyer (Rosamund Pike) begins to dig a little deeper, things don’t exactly fit and there may be a conspiracy behind the shootings.
There is something to be said for the film’s initial set up. It comes out swinging, from the scene of the shooting and just how the sniper himself gets caught, the viewer would know exactly where the film was about to go. The screenplay was pretty efficient in setting about its groundwork, as it also gives some backstory to the main character and what his links are to Barr. The screenplay worked really well, it defined the stakes and who and what the players are. The film was adapted from a series of novels that have had a reputation of being page turners; the kind that sucks you in the more you invest in the story.
The direction manages to emulate that kind of movement around its narrative. It bahves like a mystery thriller while being driven by the main character and the action. Once the first act concludes, the film picks up on its narrative. One development or twist is played to advance its plot, that the more is revealed, the more possibilities and questions do arise. Being used to this type of plotting, McQuarrie seems to be in familiar ground as he took on something much more complex with his script in “The Usual Suspects”. The film's screenplay is about the investigation and the direction became one with the script, it moved quickly and yet efficiently in the development of its story. McQuarrie was able to connect everything sufficiently enough that everything did fit and not fit, while immersing one into its narrative, he keeps everything light, and yet tense. By placing some good points of subtle humor to balance out the serious tone of the material, by poking some fun into its character, the overall experience makes for good entertainment with some hard-hitting fisticuffs, car chases and gunplay.
For a movie that carries a PG-13 rating, “Jack Reacher” carried a lot of gritty attitude and the fights are pretty hard-hitting despite its trimmed down blood and no gore. Jack Reacher is the kind of guy who would quickly immobilize his opponent; he is the kind who is the no-nonsense, efficient type of fighter and the fight choreography was geared for this expression. The hand to hand work were closely shot for more in your face, up close and personal machismo. It keeps the action simple when it is on hand-to-hand, while it saves showmanship for the more extravagant scenes such as chases and gun fights. The car chase in the film also gains points for its length and creativity; it felt more old-school using real cars and stunt drivers, than something made in front of a green screen.
One other thing that I enjoyed with the film was the fact that “Jack Reacher” kept things simple with it comes to its plot development and characterization. It wisely avoids a romantic subplot with Helen (Rosamund Pike), but the direction occasionally pokes fun at potential sexual tension between the two ala-”Constantine‘s” Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz. This is the kind of movie that goes point to point, no nonsense, that it goes from each point to another in developing a play on its narrative. More evidence comes out, and one gets to know the characters as the direction immerses you into the screenplay. I know, much of the film was built on Cruise’s charisma, but I have to admit, I got more into the film because of the execution of the script and solid direction. I liked the timing and the placing of some of the film’s more ‘man lines’.
Much of the film is built on Reacher and Helen, but it does some serve up an interesting bad guy in the form of “The Zec” (Werner Herzog). It even comes complete with an obligatory mano-o-mano fight between Reacher and his right-hand man. While it does have some questions when it came to motivations with David Oyelowo’s “Emerson“ character, however clichéd, filled a void in the script. Robert Duvall made a welcome limited appearance that made the links to Barr and Reacher a little more fluid.
“Jack Reacher” is one of those movies that is aimed directly at guys; guys who love action movies that have credible intricacies to its plot. It is the kind of movie that would’ve made Stallone and Schwarzenegger, Eastwood and Bronson back then. True, Cruise may not have sold me 100 % as the title character (he looks and sounds like a pretty boy), but in a way, it does make sense that lines such as “…you wanted this.“ would carry a little less intensity, the Reacher character was a little low-key with some sarcasm wrapped around him. It is a crowd-pleaser and is a very easy movie to enjoy. It is a rare genre movie that barely gets made anymore. “Jack Reacher” is a good movie for guys who like action movies during the holiday season.
Okay, so here's the thing. I absolutely love the character of Jack Reacher. He was created by British author, Lee Childs. Lee has written 18 books and they all feature Reacher. Reacher is one of my favorite fictional characters. The guy is huge...6'5, 250 lbs, blond hair, big hands, big feet, big body...big everything. The dude is like a house...a huge house. He's also gruff and not at all slick. He lives off the grid...Buys his … more