Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movie Review - Jack Reacher

I've never read them but my wife has been reading the Jack Reacher books for a while and really enjoying them. So when we heard they were making a movie, she was pretty excited. When she heard that Tom Cruise was cast as the lead, she moaned in dismay. To quote her, "Jack Reacher is huge and intimidating. He has 'hands like hams.' He's not a pretty boy. He's not short. Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher." Not having read the books personally, I had to defer to her judgment which seemed very sound based on her descriptions of Reacher from the book. I don't know the full degree of the backlash but I have heard other Reacher fans with the same basic argument.

When we went to see the movie, my wife tried to push down her frustration and accept Cruise as Reacher and enjoy the film. She admits that it was difficult to do so especially since this was an adaptation of the first book rather than a made-for-screen story. The movie plot was close enough to the book that it kept the book firmly in her mind and served as a reminder that Tom Cruise is not and could never be Jack Reacher.

For my part not having read the book, it was easier for me to ignore the fact that short-pretty-boy Tom Cruise was acting the part of the intimidating bad boy. Still, there were some lines and comments that really didn't fit. For example there's a scene when the police are looking for a man who could have killed a girl with one punch. They ask at Reacher's motel and the desk clerk says it must be Reacher and that when they "see him", they'll know why she assumes that. Frankly, Tom Cruise doesn't look like he could kill anybody with a single punch. There were a number of similar lines that made it clear that even the screenplay was written without Tom Cruise in mind.

Apart from complaints about Tom Cruise not being a good physical fit for the role, I have to say that the movie itself was pretty enjoyable. It's a moderately normal crime-action drama. There's a man claiming he's wrongfully accused of multiple murders and it's up to Jack Reacher to investigate and determine the truth. The plot and storyline were very interesting and well developed. I'm not sure how much the film varies from the book in terms of the events or the way the mystery and action plays out, but I found the overall arc of the story to be fairly believable and fun.

There were some pretty cool action sequences…plenty of hand-to-hand fighting as well as shootouts and car chases. The cinematography and effects did a good job of enhancing the scenes without distracting or making them hard to follow. That's been one of my complaints in some recent action movies…is that the cameras get too jittery or close up too close on the action in an effort to try and draw in the viewer. As a result, it's sometimes difficulty to see the intricacies and choreography of the action sequence. There was some of that in this movie, but mostly I felt distanced enough to enjoy the scene while close enough to be drawn in. The violence of the action scenes definitely push this into the strong PG-13 level, so younger viewers should steer clear.

From the onset it looks as though the crime in this movie is a random act of psychotic violence. As time goes on in Reacher's investigation, it seems there might be more to it than that but we're not quite sure what. And yet there are scenes hanging out on the edges that show a mysterious villainous kingpin figure hiding just out of reach. It's quickly apparent that he's somehow involved but we're not sure how until late in the film.

I don't want to spoil the plot but I just want to comment on this kingpin figure and say that he is freaky evil. I suspect most of this comes out of the book plot but he was just very freaky. He's one of those villains who seemingly has nothing to lose and every confidence that he will win. As a result, there's no real way to reason with him or figure out a way to undermine his confidence or his efforts. The ways he demands loyalty and retribution from his cohorts is just creepy. His mannerisms and actions just sent chills up my spine.

Overall I found the movie to be an entertaining action flick. The mystery elements were fun and smart. The action sequences were exciting (even those where Tom Cruise was unconvincingly portrayed as a mega-brawler fighting and killing machine). Part of the premise of Reacher is that he is unapologetically "above the law" or "beyond the law" in the sense that he does what he feels is "right" regardless of protocol. While his methods do get results, it is clear that he is no Boy Scout and he's willing to make seemingly unethical sacrifices for the greater good. This was an interesting twist in the normal hero films. I'm interested to see whether or not they'll continue making films in the franchise. More than that though, I intend to go start reading the Reacher books…after which, I probably won't want more movies unless they get rid of Cruise and recast Jack Reacher.

3.5 out of 5 stars


Brian Miller said...

yeah i have read the books as well...and cruise is an odd cast...waiting on the redbox for this one...though i have heard a few good things...not bad or a night of entertainment...

Phoenix said...

I haven't read the books so I wasn't particularly interested in the movie, but your review makes me feel that maybe I'd like it after all. If I do end up seeing it I'll let you know! I love action flicks :)