Rating: 4 stars out of 5
‘Jack Reacher’ has the misfortune of being a poorly timed film. Audiences here were probably wondering why the premiere for the film was delayed after the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. Well, it’s easy to see why now. Right at the opening is a brilliantly directed tension filled scene depicting a man with a sniper rifle, gunning down what seems to be five random people. It’s unfortunate, but we do have to judge the movie on its own merit.
Christopher McQuarrie, who was also involved in the rewriting of the original screenplay this movie is based on, helms the movie from his director’s chair. The result is a police procedural that has enough twists and turns, something movies of this genre tend to be lacking these days, that’ll keep the audience occupied throughout.
It’s very nicely crafted all around, has a dark humorous vibe to it as well and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is very much appreciated. The film does move a little slowly in the first act, but the rest of the movie proves to be a fun challenge for viewers as they piece together the clues and twists that unfold. A little bit of a mind challenge, if you will.
The character Jack Reacher originates from a series of books written by British author Jim Grant under his pen name of Lee Child. The book adapted for this movie is ‘One Shot’. If you’ve read the novels by Child, Cruise doesn’t exactly fit the part of Reacher, described in the novels as a 6-foot-5, 250-pound, blond monster of a dude. So obviously, Cruise doesn’t quite ‘reach’ (pun intended) the physical features of the character, and so does the role in his own way.
Much of what makes Reacher such an interesting persona is intrinsic to the character itself. A former military cop, the now retired Reacher is a drifter—completely off the grid. He often buses or hitchhikes to get around. He’s got no address, no cards ... he’s a ghost with no paper trail. He even uses freaking pay phones, which only serves to illustrate how completely dedicated to laying low this guy is. When the shooting occurs, the authorities quickly and efficiently find a trail of clues leading to an ex-Army sniper named James Barr. When questioned, Barr says nothing, only writing down ‘Get Jack Reacher’. The man arrives after seeing Barr’s arrest on the news, only to find Barr in a deep coma after having been beaten by fellow inmates on their way to holding prison. Reacher has a past with Barr and is convinced he did it, but is persuaded by Barr’s defense attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), to be her investigate. However, as he digs deeper, he realises nothing isn’t what it seems to be.
Cruise inhabits his role quite admirably and turns in a performance that make you see why he’s a true megastar. Gone is the megawatt smile from movies like ‘Top Gun’; replaced by a performance filled with a world-weary ideal that harks back to his roles in edgier material like ‘Collateral’. Cruise taps into Jack Reacher’s healthily suspicious nature almost perfectly, with a dry wit and an unforgiving single-minded attitude towards only doing the right thing.
And in a wonderfully weird casting choice, legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog plays the villain, a man named ‘The Zec’. Nice to see someone finally tapping that deeply threatening documentary narration voice, although his role is pretty flat, a stereotypical villain that doesn’t have many layers to it.
‘Jack Reacher’ is smart but, at the same time, the movie never forgets the subject at hand—justice no matter what. There are plenty of badass fights, thrills and spills. Reacher fights with a particularly violent fighting style that employs lots of elbow strikes that will make you cringe. And, rather thankfully, these fight scenes aren’t over edited.
This is a thinking man’s bruiser movie—smart, violent and confident. It’s electrifying when you finally weave together all the pieces of this hardboiled crime, and the bone-shattering action and various surprises will keep you engaged all the way through.
The best part? It’s never too afraid to laugh at itself; which is a good thing in a genre where eye-rolling cliches are aplenty. Plus, there’s Robert Duvall in a small role as an ex-Marine who owns a gun range—setting up a mini ‘Days of Thunder’ reunion on screen for nostalgia enthusiasts.