Here is another run-of-the-mill procedural mystery thriller, a genre of film that was much more satisfying before television inundated our culture with two decades plus worth of weekly crime shows and murder mysteries, leading to the death of this film genre as a whole. Now every week, multiple nights a week, anyone can watch any number of police TV shows involving all the twists, turns and misdirection that one has come to expect from this type of story, meaning a cinematic crime procedural needs to be extra twisty and turny and epic in scale in order to differentiate itself from the CSIs and NCISs and Law & Orders of this world.
Unfortunately, “Jack Reacher” does not meet these requirements, and instead comes across as a bloated television show pilot, the weekly exploits of ex-Army investigator solving mysteries and making friends. And really a “Jack Reacher” TV show would not be so bad, especially if each episode had this movie’s budget and leading actor. But we all know television is a comparatively cheap medium, so this wouldn’t be possible. Instead it would be a low budget endeavor, and likely starring a washed up film actor, slumming it on the small screen (see: Charlie Sheen, Holly Hunter, Mark Harmon, David Caruso).
But this is not a television pilot, this is more like a pilot episode for a hopeful film franchise based on a series of books. This particular story starts with a sniper killing five random people in public (more on this aspect of the story in a bit), and when the police use evidence left at the crime scene to arrest their suspect, this suspect calls simply asks the police to “get Jack Reacher.” And before Reacher (Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Knight and Day) could get to the suspect to see what was up, the guy ended up in a little coma thanks to a vicious beating from some fellow prison inmates, meaning if Reacher is going to get any answers, he would have to go digging.
And so the movie goes, as Jack Reacher makes his way around this unnamed town (the movie was filmed entirely in Pittsburgh), checking out the crime scene and using his nearly psychic level of deductive reasoning to see how deep the rabbit hole goes down. In addition to his ability to be the greatest criminal investigator ever apparently, he is also completely irresistible to women, a world-class marksman, and the world’s greatest fighter, which enables him to do pretty much anything he wants.
Joining Mr. Cruise in this movie is the great Richard Jenkins (Burn After Reading) as a powerful district attorney convinced that he has the right suspect for the killings, David Oyelowo (Lincoln) as the lead investigator of the murder, and Rosamund Pike and her constantly heaving bosom (Wrath of the Titans) as the only attorney willing to take on the murder suspect’s case. Rounding out the cast and playing the main villain in all of three scenes is famed German director Werner Herzog (Into The Abyss, Cave of Forgotten Dreams), who uses his small amount of screen time exude tons of menace, as he puts in pretty much the most memorable performance in the movie.
The problem with this movie is two-fold: the plot itself while mildly interesting is, again, nothing we have not seen before in film or television, and when it is all said and done it does not feel like the journey of this story was necessarily worth the time.
And then the character of Jack Reacher is really only as interesting as the actor can make it, and in this case it is always fun to watch Cruise do his action start thing, especially during the movie’s highlight, a car chase scene in which Cruise does 100% of the stunt driving, but otherwise there is nothing to the character. He is merely an unstoppable force, inexplicably able to do anything and everything and constantly able to see the truth when every other single person cannot. While a character like this can be fun to follow around, as it is satisfying to see people underestimate this guy an then get their asses handed back to them, but the character of Jack Reacher does not change one iota from the beginning of the movie to the end of the movie. He is always the same, he learns nothing from his experience, and we are led to believe that he does not need to change or learn anything, as he is pretty much 100% virtuous, fair and always correct in his deductions and assumptions. Not exactly great drama. A good action movie character maybe, but a good dramatic character? Definitely not.
The movie also starts with a public shooting, seemingly senseless and random at first, and while it is more than obvious that this public shooting spree that gets this plot rolling will be more than just a “random” shooting and will tie into a much larger conspiracy, it is still incredibly uncomfortable to watch a movie that starts with this type of situation when there seems to be a rash of these horrible public shootings in real life. Movies are escapist entertainment, so it stinks to sit down to escape the real world in a movie theater, only to have it thrown in your face. An action movie like this is supposed to be fun, but what is fun about watching a Nanny running away with a six-year old girl in her arms telling her everything is going to be okay while a sniper has them in his crosshairs? There is nothing fun about that.
Of course if this were a dramatically heavy movie then this stuff would not seem out of place. But more than once this movie dips into comedic territory, including one scene in which Reacher gets jumped by a few guys which turns into something straight out of a Three Stooges short, and tonally scenes like this totally throw off the whole movie.
“Jack Reacher” is a decent enough movie, and doesn’t have much that is necessarily wrong with it, but it does not add up to a satisfying whole thanks to a dramatically uninteresting lead character and a plot straight out of the 1990s.
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