Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Jack Reacher (2012)

On paper, making a decent to great big screen thriller out of one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels about everyone’s favourite serial killer vigilante/justice-dispensing hero (depending on your interpretation and personal taste) is a no-brainer. Child’s plots generally roll like freight trains – if you imagine freight trains to have a lot of cars, be sexy, absurdly violent and able to look much less absurd than they actually are. And Reacher is a surprisingly interesting character for a thriller series this long.

In fact, director/writer Christopher McQuarrie’s script does make good use of the Child novel this is based on. Even though he changes a lot about it, most of these changes seem perfectly sensible for a big budget Hollywood action vehicle. With his director hat on, McQuarrie isn’t the most sexy or stylish director of this kind of stuff, but the action sequences are generally shot with vigour and flow quite nicely.

Unfortunately, what really drags the film down is the fact that this is not a Jack Reacher movie, but a Tom Cruise™ vehicle, produced by Cruise, directed by someone who has worked under (to be realistic about the power in this star/director combination) him before. Otherwise, they’d probably have found an actor who is a better fit for the role of Reacher, someone with less of a lukewarm presence, for Reacher as a character really needs someone who does hot (the guy may be a murder machine but he’s also supposed to be charming and able to project warmth when he wants it) and cold both exceedingly well. Or really, a lead willing to subsume his star personality under the character they are supposed to be playing. An “actor”, I believe it is called, rather than a star. To make this more Cruise-like, there are regular opportunities for the guy to throw himself into heroic poses (I suspect one every fifteen minutes as mandated in the contract). Worst, where the book Reacher’s absurd competence in investigating, killing and sexing is presented matter-of-factly, Jack Reacher the movie and the characters in it regularly break down to swoon about Creachers awesomeness. Which is funny enough the first five times or so, but does become pretty tiresome after a while.

To get back to the film’s good bits, Rosamund Pike is allowed to do two or three things between her bouts of being overwhelmed by that elderly sex pot she’s paired up with, and Robert Duvall pops in for a pointless but entertaining role. Then there’s the bizarre decision of casting Werner Herzog as the Big Bad; Werner, it turns out, is best when he’s talking about his time in Siberia and trying to convince an unlucky henchman to bite off his own fingers (they didn’t have knives in Siberia, you know). Okay, perhaps not best, but pretty damn funny.

So, how much any given viewer will enjoy this one will most certainly depend on their stance on The Cruise. If you like the guy, most of the film’s flaws will turn into virtues, and the film into a really great cartoonish action thriller; if you’re like me and don’t, you’ll probably find moments of well-done entertainment fighting against a lead too vain to realize that the movie as a whole is supposed to be more important than he is. In any case, this is leagues better than The Mummy (Cruise version), but then, what isn’t?

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