Jack Reacher (Grade: C-)
Jack Reacher is most easily defined by what both the character and film are not. As the question of who this ex-army civilian ghost is arises throughout Christopher McQuarrie’s movie, thinking through just what Tom Cruise’s portrayal is, well, reaching for begs to be addressed. He isn’t an action hero, nor a true vigilante, nor is he an enigma like Jason Bourne. He is, above all else, dull.
An adaptation of Lee Child’s novel, ex-army police officer, Jack Reacher (Cruise), is summoned by a man who has just committed a random mass shooting. (For the record, mass shootings in the United States “require” four deaths.) Suspecting he might be innocent, Reacher and the shooter’s lawyer, Helen (Rosmund Pike), team up and uncover shading dealings.
Glacial in pace, all tension is undone by sheer boredom, made more unbearable by the television style writing of exposition, flash-back, more exposition. (Fraternities might find a use in the film by creating a drinking game where one takes a shot every time someone says “Jack Reacher,” though it would be difficult to make it outside of the first twenty minutes with a functioning liver.) Though the film clearly strives to place itself in the company of 1970s gritty crime thrillers or any Clint Eastwood film—the lone man left to enact justice on his terms after society fails him—Reacher constantly folds himself back into the social order he supposedly disdains. Living off the grid, Reacher may have chosen to extract himself from the world around him to be unburden—observing people staring into monitors working late, he asks: “Are they really free?”—but he never truly cuts the ties. Like so many films of late that seek to recreate that harden 1970s feel, in the end the supposed anti-hero turns out to be the hero through and through. It’s not nuance so much as it is having it both ways, begging the question: Where have all the good misanthropes gone?
Had Jack Reacher been 45 minutes shorter, it might have made its way into the realm of camp classic, hinging solely on the gem that is Werner Herzog. The German director who was shot in the stomach during an interview and once ate his own shoe, Herzog is an object of curiosity who both indulges in and shapes a persona of the bizarre. His appearance then as a villain in a Tom Cruise production is as predictable as it is unexpected. As the fingerless evil Eastern Bloc specter The Zec, he demands those who cross him chew off their own digits. But most importantly, he does so with conviction. The same most certainly can’t be said of the film as a whole.