Movie Review: Jack Reacher
Dammit. All I wanted for Christmas was Die Hard. I wanted Bruce and bare feet and crunching chards of glass. I wanted foreign scoundrel Hans Gruber, complete with a team of rogue terrorists, implementing a devious heist, all encased in a skyscraper set to blow, with the calvary coming from within. I wanted YIPPIE-KAY-YAY and a chubby cop eating Twinkies and explosions 500 feet in the air, all with holiday cheer and a happy ending.
Instead, Santa gave me Jack Reacher. And to prove how awful I’ve been this year, Mr. Claus let Tom Cruise buy the rights to Lee Child’s One Shot, and simultaneously hire his old buddy Christopher McQuarrie (Valkyrie) to write and direct an overcooked, meandering story line.
Reacher begins rather disturbingly given the recent acts of random violence that have plagued our country. A military sniper, perched atop a parking garage, begins picking off what is to be conceived as random targets along a riverfront park in downtown Pittsburgh. When finished, six shots have been fired and five people lie dead. The scene is eerie, and the timing of the film’s release should be brought into question. Next, a brilliant detective (David Oyelowo) apparently cracks the case in less than 100 seconds of film, yet arrests the wrong man (Joseph Sikora) who obviously has been set up. Upon interrogation, and prior to being beat into a coma, Sikora calmly scribes “FIND JACK REACHER” on a notepad. The kookiness begins as Cruise magically appears as Reacher, a drifter who lives off his military pension and the clothes on his back. Reacher is summoned as some sort of former military crime investigator, and our comatose character was vindicated by him years ago in a Middle East shooting snafu, apparently the only man on Earth who can unravel a coverup of such complexity.
If it sounds dumb, it gets dumber. Reacher and his genius skills begin working with the gorgeous public defender (Rosamund Pike) to question the motive behind the murders. This sets up the gratuitous sexual tension, along with Top Gun’s shirtless, now 50 year old torso (shot of course from below), and many fantastic opportunities for Pike to flaunt her cleavage (shot of course from above). The two of them begin to uncover the set up, realize that the sniper shootings were not random, and that One Shot was intended to kill a specified target with the other four murders acting as a coverup. A villainous mastermind (Werner Herzog) sits behind the whole ordeal, and there’s really never a strong case as to why.
It somehow finishes as Reacher buddies up with a crusty old militant played by Robert Duvall, and the two of them descend upon a construction pit to save Pike from the fingerless Herzog and his posse of machine gunned goons. With Duvall sniping from above and Cruise running amuck in the pit (initially wielding nothing more than a Rambo knife), the two of them proceed to kill off seven bad guys and save the dame while miraculously avoiding anything nastier than a scratch. As sirens draw near, Duvall instructs Tommy to ‘get her number’ before they jump into a pickup and disappear into the darkness…
All too often, action thrillers want to be everything all at once. They want to be smart. They want to be violent. They want to be funny. They want to be gritty. And they want to be spectacularly shocking. On paper, Cruise and McQuarrie appeared to have had a checklist and crossed off these elements as they filmed. But Reacher never ties them together. And much like an amateur cook attempting to prepare a master chef’s recipe, unfortunately, the dish gets mangled in the oven. My suggestion for the Xmas Season? Stay home and rent Die Hard. Santa definitely won’t hold it against you.