Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher), Rosamund Pike (Helen), Richard Jenkins (Rodin), Werner Herzog (The Zec)
Bottom line: Jack Reacher is, in a word, painful. It is more like Tom Cruise's Ode to Tom Cruise. That said, with the right atmosphere, this could make for a fun 'bad movie' night.
Based on the trailer, I expected Jack Reacher to be something like Mission: Impossible. I didn't think it would be as good but I certainly didn't expect it to be as bad as it was.
The film opens with a mysterious looking white van driving into Pittsburgh, PA. This came as a surprise to me. I am from Pittsburgh so whenever I see a familiar street, I get excited. As you might expect, Dark Knight Rises was pretty cool. At the same time, this was also a red flag. In fact, I hadn't considered this a red flag, until I saw Jack Reacher.
This is what I'm thinking. Big budget movies try to make a fantasy city: Anywhere, USA. It may look like New York, (or Pittsburgh) but any resemblance is a coincidence. One reason could be creative freedom. They can edit different streets in different cities to achieve a particular effect.
At the same time, I don't have that much film making experience. I know, conceptually, that one can edit different images or locations for a particular effect but what exactly does that mean? Maybe during a chase scene, Tom Cruise drives off the roof of a building and lands in a parking lot? Perhaps the building was in New York and the parking lot was in Pittsburgh. I suppose if the building is convenient and aesthetically pleasing but it doesn't match up with a parking lot, then the film makers could split it between two cites.
Money is probably an issue when making a fantasy city. If, somehow as a result of the movie, people associate the city with something bad then tourism might go down. This seems a little silly though, don't you think? Copyright issues might be more reasonable (if that is the correct word)? A particular building might not want to be filmed.
In any case, let me get back on track with Jack Reacher. Jack Reacher is a military lawyer and he is called to Pittsburgh to help a former military sniper accused of murdering four people. It seems like a closed case: fingerprints and evidence everywhere. Is the man innocent? What will Jack Reacher do?
The title character is supposed to be the man every woman wants and every man wants to be. I kid you not every single woman that see him, swoons. He does all the patented Tom Cruise looks: the profile, the slow turn around and the smirk and, even, the slow turn around smirk combo. Flawless in their execution, Tom Cruise should be proud.
The villain, the Zec, is hilariously bad. He is supposed to be Eastern European but for some bizarre reason he is played by Werner Herzog (he was the narrator of Grizzly Man). There is no effort to mask his German accent either. Maybe he was from East Germany…The Zec is supposed to mean something (like ‘Man” or ‘Human’) in I forgot what language. He was a criminal who was alienated from his people or gang or what-have-you. I checked all of the eastern European languages using translate.google.com and they didn't return anything valid. The reason he (and the rest of the movie) is funny is because it is taken so seriously.
This movie was released a couple months before Tom Cruise's Oblivion. I can't believe it is a coincidence and it makes me wonder about the motive. Was it released beforehand so people get into a ‘Tom Cruise mood’ and get them excited for Oblivion? Maybe they released it so people will go into Oblivion with low expectations. They'll say, "Well, this one has to be better than Jack Reacher." But that seems less likely. Tom Cruise is always solid and that’s one thing I appreciate about this movie. Perhaps they take it too seriously, but it is better that than not take it seriously enough.
I think Jack Reacher should be relegated to the realm of drinking game movies:
- Take a sip every time a woman swoons.
- Take a (small) sip every time Tom Cruise looks like he is thinking, "I am the man."
- Take a shot every time Tom Cruise does one of his looks (profile, over the shoulder glance, smirk).
I think you would be good to go with just those three rules.
The question becomes, and this is a question that comes up a lot for me, does this movie accomplish what it sets out to do? It wouldn't be fair, for example, to judge Lincoln and Fifth Element in the same way. Both are great movies but in different ways. Jack Reacher tries to be an fun, exciting action movie. It tries to be suspenseful but fails because the plot is predictable.The action is ok but nothing special. The chase sequences are disappointing too. No, I don't believe Jack Reacher achieves what it sets out to do. Can you still have fun with it? Certainly, but you can say that about almost anything.