Jack Reacher

 So who is Jack Reacher? He’s an ex-Army MP Homicide Investigator, and was pretty successful at it. But when he and the Army parted company, he fell off the grid. And has remained off the grid.

That is until a horrific shooting took place in which five seemingly random people were mowed down by a single sniper. Five people were shot to death in a matter of moments, on the Riverfront Walk in front of the baseball stadium in Pittsburgh, PA.

After the lead homicide detective brought in the suspect, based on very solid evidence, the DA gave him a choice – waive your right to an attorney and confess – or face a death sentence.

The suspect did not write out a confession. Instead he penciled on the notepad: Get Jack Reacher.

There’s this guy. He’s a kind of cop, at least he used to be. He doesn’t care about proof, he doesn’t care about the law, he only cares about what’s right.

Jack Reacher is played by Tom Cruise who has had plenty of success as an action-hero in the film business. Said another way, the Mission Impossible series sold a lot of tickets. Cruise also performed in another spy/action film called Knight and Day (2010) with Cameron Diaz as his co-star. That one was produced with a 117 million dollar budget. It has taken in 258 million world-wide. Let’s not forget a film called Top Gun either.

So rather than say he was miscast – which is true in the sense that the Jack Reacher, as described in the series of novels penned by Lee Child, is a very big man, with a commanding and imposing physical presence. He’s 6’5″ and weighs in at 250 pounds. Let’s say, on paper, that Cruise is far shorter and is not physically imposing at all, so he doesn’t fit the role. But the way this film is handled, it is not really an action film. So his size doesn’t matter.

Yes, they marketed it that way, as an action film,  -but the truth is that this film is about getting to the truth. Did the suspect actually shoot those people? Why were they shot? Yeah – that makes the film about the investigation. Yes, there are a number of set action pieces beginning with the shootings to open the film. Cruise/Reacher will have at least three fight scenes, a shoot-out and an obligatory car chase, including the done to death, one-car-driving-the-wrong-way-against-oncoming-traffic scene.

Cruise handles himself well in all of those, but again – the main thrust of the story is the investigation. Along in supporting roles are Rosamund Pike as the defense attorney, Helen Rodin, who hires Reacher to help her research the case, Richard Jenkins as the DA, David Oyelowo as the Pittsburgh homicide cop, and film maker Werner Herzog, as The Zec – the film’s evil bad guy.

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In the last third of the film, veteran actor Robert Duvall appears as Cash – the owner of a rifle shop/shooting range – and the now 81-year-old Duvall, gives another fine performance.

The film was produced by Cruise, and he did get the blessing from author Lee Child, whose novel One Shot – was the basis for the book. While acknowledging that Cruise does not approach the physicality of Reacher, in the books he’s portrayed as an unstoppable force, Child said a taller actor would be 100% per cent of Reacher’s height, and only 90% of Reacher, whereas with Cruise – you’d get 100% of Reacher with 90% percent of the height.

I think that matters only if you have read most of the books. If you haven’t read the books then you have Cruise as Reacher and his size is not even a consideration. Besides, Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner aren’t big men either, and they’ve done quite well as the action heroes in the Bourne films. Speaking of which – the Bourne franchise includes both Damon and Renner, The Mission Impossible franchise is Cruise, so we might ask ourselves if there could be a franchise for Cruise as Reacher?

I don’t think so, although a sequel is certainly possible. First is Cruise’s age. He’s now 50, and I belive he has film commitments up to and including Mission Impossible 5 in 2015. Second is the Reacher character. He’s not glamorous. He travels extremely light. In the film, Reacher is staying at a motel and has washed his only shirt in the motel’s bathroom sink. When Pike as the lawyer arrives at his room to discuss the case, he is wringing out the water from the shirt. She’s somewhat bothered by his bare chest so she says, Can you put on a shirt? Reacher replies – This is my shirt.

 But mostly – Reacher doesn’t do one liners. He doesn’t crack jokes. There’s nothing yippee-ki-a motherfucker about him. As a matter of fact, the presence of Rosamond Pike serves two purposes – one and most importantly – she’s a sounding board for Reacher to express his theories to. In the books, it is all internal thinking by Reacher we are privy to, but rather than have a steady dose of Reacher doing a non-stop voice-over about his thoughts, he says them to Pike’s Helen Rodin. And two – she’s nice to look at.

Second is the style and nature of the stories. Reacher doesn’t travel internationally. He doesn’t own fancy clothes, a car, or a house. When he arrives in town, he doesn’t get the prettiest gal in the city to fall at his feet. Reacher rides a Greyhound Bus. He has no boss, no gadgets, and apparently he lives off his military pension. He buys his clothes off the rack. His stories are going to be similar and unvaried. Just the locations will change. It isn’t quite in the same category as say the iconic Dirty Harry kind of film. So frankly, I don’t see a franchise coming for Jack Reacher.

I don’t believe they spent a lot of money to make this film. It was shot exclusively in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and we don’t see any five star hotels, expensive restaurants and bars, and his wheels are always ‘borrowed, older, muscle cars. So likely the bulk of the budget went to the lead actor.

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the film is a bit more than above average. It should do well in the theaters, at least until January 11th when Zero Dark Thirty goes to wide distribution, and Gangster Squad opens. But this one will not go down as a box-office champion. I’ll recommend the film as the story and direction are solid. There’s nothing about this film that is great, but it is worth your time. Three point seven five out of five is my rating.

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