Jack Reacher

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: December 21, 2012
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On a mundane morning in an average town, five people are randomly shot dead while going about their everyday lives. All of the evidence points to one man: A sharp-shooting assassin who also is ex-military, a trained sniper. He is swiftly apprehended and dragged into custody. Despite a marathon interrogation, the prisoner offers up nothing except a cryptic demand he scribbles on a notepad in lieu of a confession: GET JACK REACHER.
Film Review
The stage is set for Jack Reacher with nothing more than ambient sound. A lone sharp shooter sets up in a parking garage. He peers through his scope across the river at the people walking, sitting, or playing with a child. His breath is rhythmic as he sets his target and the bullets begin to fly, killing five people at random and just as quickly getting away in his van. Then the police arrive, and the suspect caught--or has he been? "Get Jack Reacher" is suspect Barr's request, and Reacher need not be found, nor could he be, but he's already on his way thanks to a newscast--in his newest duds bought from the local thrift store. Yes, Jack Reacher begins with violence, and it turns your stomach at the senseless act the film paints the gunman's actions as being. But all is not what it seems, and Jack Reacher is on the case with Barr's attorney Helen to solve the mystery.

It all sounds great, does it not? Alas, it is a replicated story that has been seen before, and done better with stronger plot points, a more interesting lead, a better villain with a far more interesting motive, and lots more action. Jack Reacher isn't horrible, but its far from great, or even very good. The greatest problem is the pacing of the film as it dawdles continuously with extraneous scenes and information that need not exist to keep the story interesting. The character of Jack Reacher is more important to and given more focus than the plot at hand, and Cruise's Reacher is so miscast it becomes impossible to fully enjoy and embrace him as the good guy with dark secrets. His occasional one-liners may incite a chuckle but for the wrong reasons. Jack Reacher needs more action to balance out all of the talking and dead air during scenes that should have been cut much shorter. It is fun to see Werner Herzog play a villain, but his villain's motives are quite lame. All in all, Jack Reacher is simply a mediocre action movie, that would have been better suited as a television dramatic series than a motion picture--only there can you get away with heavy doses of procedural dialogue without a steady flow of action.
Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher, even if he feels miscast in the role for most of the film. Yes, that is a strong statement to make, but something just doesn't feel right about Cruise's Reacher from the very beginning. The awkward attempts to build sexual tension between Reacher and love-interest/attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike) only add to the strangeness of casting Tom Cruise in the role of Jack Reacher. Trying to make him out to be a sex symbol in the beginning, with every woman batting her eyes or swooning over him only feels silly. He does look better than Sylvester Stallone with his shirt off but having Pike ask him to put his shirt on because obviously his hyper-masculine sexiness is distracting only elicits laughter, of the wrong kind. Tom Cruise fulfills the obligations of the character during the fight scenes, and when guns are blazing, but the panache needed to pull off a brilliant one-liner, like "drink blood out of your boot," Cruise just can't seem to manage; he is no James Bond and it would appear that Jack Reacher is meant to be similar to that character--even as an off-the-map drifter who has a complicated history with the government and his former role in the Army.

Cruise does his best, and he is entertaining in a fight or speeding through the streets of Pittsburgh driving a dreamy muscle car. As the mysterious hero he isn't much to root for, or jump on board with his philosophy on how to solve a crime. Quite often his cockiness is charming, until his smarts get in the way of solving the crime. The pacing issues of the film play a hand in this because Reacher can't just tell you what he has figured out, it becomes a game to him to wait and see how long it takes you to know the answer--you being another character in the film, and mostly Rosamund Pike's Helen is the victim. Fellow FilmFracture writer Russell Espinosa remarked in the 2012 Holiday Must See Movies feature, "when is Tom Cruise gonna realize he's not the 1980s Top Gun guy anymore?" He was right, for the most part, as Tom Cruise isn't strong enough as an action star without plenty of action to differ a viewer's attention--and Jack Reacher doesn't have much action.

Then there is Werner Herzog, cast as the villain who only has 1 finger and 1 eye. He is "The Zec," translated meaning "the prisoner." Herzog is a renowned director and in Jack Reacher he shall become known as the oddest and most non-influential villain to ever go up against Tom Cruise. His appearances in the film are few, and his dialogue happens even less. The grand finale shows his true colors, and a great line about him finding retirement--of which I will not share as it would spoil the moment. The real villain is actually a lower-man on the totem pole in "The Zec's" gang, and he is not exactly frightening aside from his skills with a gun and the ease at which he kills. You get to know him quite early on in the film, Charlie (Jai Courtney), and no, this revelation has not spoiled a single thing in Jack Reacher's storyline. Rosamund Pike (Helen), Joseph Sikora (Barr) and David Oyelowo (Emerson) round out the rest of the main cast or characters, each performing their roles adequately and as expected. This is of course disappointing as Pike and Oyelowo can do much more, when given the opportunity. This opportunity is not made available in Jack Reacher; but there is a great scene with a taser between the both of them, and Pike will surely become known for her decolletage after this film with audiences, so its not all a loss.
Learn when to trim the fat--a saying that perfectly describes the editing in Jack Reacher. The movie suffers from a lack of momentum, and long pauses during scenes that need not exist. Jack Reacher has a running time of about 2 hours, it could have been 80 minutes and fit perfectly into a procedural action-mystery knot with the occasional comical fight scene, or memorable one-liner ala Die Hard. Instead the movie runs on, leaving the viewer in a state of exhaustion from waiting so long in between the good parts that they must wade through the bad for the shiny moment something interesting and entertaining will happen again. Tom Cruise is an enigmatic actor who easily captures an audiences attention even in the worst movies--Rock Of Ages being a prime example. In Jack Reacher his moments to shine as the movie star he is, and is expected to behave as such in character roles, is lost because of the slowness of the narrative. Editor Kevin Stitt (Surrogates) should have trimmed the fat and picked up the pace with Jack Reacher, but alas he did not and Jack Reacher pays a hefty price with the satisfaction of a viewer because of this fact.
Action Sequences
Every fan of action movies has to either love Tom Cruise or hate him in an action-hero type role. [I just happen to usually love him.] Jack Reacher is not the typical action film, and those expecting a Mission Impossible style of action film will surely be disappointed. Jack Reacher plays out as a procedural dramedy, with the occasional bout of fighting, a car chase, or guns blazing scene thrown in to make things more exciting. It actually has the feel of a television show wherein there is a great deal of dialogue, of discussion and analysis, and then BOOM something happens to jolt you out of your too much talking daze. There are a couple memorable acton sequences, a favorite is sure to be the one that takes place in a bath tub with a baseball bat and crow bar. The slapstick physical comedy is what makes the scene, and Tom Cruise is excellent in the moment. Other than that things can get a bit stale in Jack Reacher, but you will get your piece of the action, just not as often as you would like.

Action, Mystery, Drama
Release Date
December 21, 2012
Production Designer
Music Score