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USA 2012
Directed by
Christopher McQuarrie
130 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Jack Reacher

Synopsis: Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is an ex-military investigator who has returned to the United States from Iraq and dropped out of sight. When a man is arrested for a random killing spree, Jack's history with him leads to him becoming the lead investigator for the defence attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike).

If you’re in the mood for an action movie fix, Jack Reacher, adapted from a crime novel by Lee Child, which is the ninth in a series centering on the eponymous character, isn’t entirely unsatisfactory. If you’re looking for anything more than that, then it most definitely is (entirely unsatisfactory). With producer/star Tom Cruise in action figure mode and twisting-and-turning plotting from Christopher “The Usual Suspects” McQuarrie it offers plenty of hang-on-to-your-seat thrills and spills book-ended by a disturbing opening and a tired finale.

The disturbing opening is the depiction of the random killing of innocent people by a lone gunman who picks them off with a high-powered rifle. With the recent Connecticut school shooting fresh in our minds it is a distasteful sight that seemingly makes it clear that Hollywood couldn’t give a flying as long as there is a buck to be made (the film was released in the USA a week after the 14th December massacre). Fortunately the plot moves rapidly away from that point and with the help of plenty of snappy one-liners, clever plotting and smart editing the film makes its claim to being a pretty good not-to-be-taken-too-seriously action thriller.

McQuarrie’s agenda is clearly to entertain the multiplex crowd and his emphasis is on constant forward motion and, understandably, making his boss look good, something which has seriously miffed fans of the novels as their Jack Reacher is blonde, 6'5”, 250 lbs,and unattractive. Cruise does his best to appear larger-than-life, but not ugly, and Rosamund Pike, who remains attractively décolleté throughout, dutifully pops her eyes at every one of Jack's brilliant revelations, including his glistening pecs.  The only other really notable character is Werner Herzog’s arch villain. Whilst in one sense it’s rather intrusive casting, the noted German’s director’s immediately identifiable, clearly enunciated but heavily accented English is creepily effective.

If the film for the most part moves along tautly, barring an arbitrary night car chase, towards its end McQuarrie completely loses his grip and sinks into a slough of off-the-shelf ideas. There’s a routinely-handled shoot-out in a quarry in which Jack (with the help of Robert Duvall’s shooter!) bests the armed-to-the-hilt villains (including crushing the head of his personal target) and saves the girl. Then said girl all aflutter and still in high heels, says to her conquering hero, wait for it… “What if I need you again? How will I find you?” Yep, it’s the Batman factor again! . No wonder the D.A. didn’t know how to find Jack  - he's really Bruce! But then so is every action hero coming out of Hollywood these days (see my review of James Bond as the caped crusader here).

At this point you realise that while you thought you were watching a movie that you hadn't seen before you were actually being bent over the seat in front of you so that Cruise, McQuarrie and Paramount could rifle your pockets and do anything else they felt like to you at the same time. And then while you’re told what a noble figure Jack is: a lone vigilante, living outside the law, guided by his unwavering sense of justice and so on and so forth, you’re back at the film’s beginning, wondering when will America learn. No, it’s not the gun, it’s the idiot who pulls the trigger, who has been brought up on a steady diet of comic book violence that this film perpetuates at the same time as it purports to condemn it. 

It is painfully clear that Jack Reacher is set up for franchising. We can only hope it doesn’t happen. It comes down to ticket sales, so it’s up to you.

 

 

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