Jack Reacher: Not as Bad as Everyone Says

By James Keith · December 24, 2012

Although I’m too lazy to go back and check all 7 or 8 of my reviews to be certain, I’m pretty sure I’ve said in one of them that one of my infallible truths, along with “butter makes everything taste better,” is that if you can’t make a good preview out of your movie, then you sure as heck can’t make a good movie out of your, er, movie. 

Even though that logic has always stood on faulty ground, seeing as how lots of directors aren’t the ones making previews, it has never the less held firm.

After watching Tom Cruise’s latest he’s-the-best-guy-there-ever-was-action hero flick, Jack Reacher, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie,  I’m not quite prepared to say a good movie can be made from a bad preview (pretty sure that’s not how it works James…), but maybe a half-decent one can be.

Reacher, the main character from a series of books by author Jim Grant (pen named Lee Child), as far as I can tell is the epitome of what every one of our father’s wishes he was: A 6’5”, barrel chested, ex-‘insert most elite sounding special army forces name’ and military detective, who knows how to do literally everything, has plenty of money, is a prick to all of the woman who just fling themselves at him for no apparent reason other than he’s ridiculously good looking, and doesn’t own anything, not a house, car, pet dog, or clothes for that matter, because FREEDOM F’ YEA.

As far as I can tell this character is some kind of joke about America. Or maybe the joke is that American’s seem to really like reading about this character. Jim Grant is British, and I’ve never seen a Brit really ever compliment Americans on anything, and even when they do it’s usually in some cheeky backhanded way. I was once told by a British teacher of mine that he preferred the American version of The Office because the British version’s boss was just too good at being creepy and awkward, and he found it unpleasant.  I can just Picture Grant laughing hysterically as rakes in all the money he makes off of republican Americans reading about a character Grant uses to mock the absurd values, opinions, and abilities he thinks they idolize.

Most of the book loyalists scoff at the notion of Cruise (who is at best 5’7’’ in his tallest of high heels) playing the 6’5’’ Reacher, but I’ve never read the books, and as far as I can tell Cruise is perfect for the role. If Reacher is what Grant (who kind of represents all of Europe here) thinks all American men want to be, then Cruise is the obvious choice to play him, because if you ask most Europeans they all think we think we’re Tom Cruise.

As far as the movie itself goes, it’s actually pretty good. McQuarrie’s script and movie remind me a lot of the action crime movies from olden times (or, well the 90’s and early 2000’s). Older guy who’s better than all the other guys around him at everything, a hot chick who tries to fight that feeling, but later on gives in, a random crime, that (once investigated) leads our main characters down a crime trail that goes straight to the top! And, of course, there’s also a bunch of henchmen and other idiots for our main character to belittle and dominate along the way.

While cliché indeed the story is, it does provide pretty good dialogue, a plot that keeps you guessing, and lots of good excellent action scenes.

Where the movie falls short though, is in the on screen chemistry between Cruise and his love interest, played by Rosumand Pike, and holy crap is that Werner Herzog playing the bad guy?

In scenes that are clearly meant to show passions igniting between the two, I’m just not buying it from Pike. To be fair, while cruise is still a stud muffin for his age, he is fifty-something and his off stage exploits have made him less marketable as a person with sex appeal. There are a couple of moments where the characters get very close to each other and we’re all supposed to wonder “are they going to do the dirty or what?”, but watching Rosamund looked more scared that he might bite her than she looked like she wanted him to bite her.

As far as Werner Herzog, who has apparently taken time off from being a weirdo who directs movies in order to spend more time being a weirdo playing a weirdo villain—he is a perfect casting choice. I’m actually surprised he hasn’t played the villain in more movies. The problem here is that McQuarrie doesn’t spent much time at all developing his character, and at the end, when we are supposed to learn the mystery of his character, we are just left with a brief, unfulfilling “I am from bad guy land and I do bad guy stuff,” and thus it causes the movie to end on a very flat note.

This is just another run of the mill action movie that claims to have a good guy who isn’t your average good guy and will do bad guy stuff too, but only when it’s absolutely necessary because he’s still like a good guy and stuff, but it’s still a pretty decent run of the mill action movie, none the less. I hate to admit it because I hate admitting when I’m wrong and this certainly takes the some of the legs out from under one of my infallible truths. That’s okay though since I’ve stocked up on all this butter to cushion the blow. So, see Jack Reacher if you want a run of the mill action flick; I’m going to go smother some popcorn with this butte and go buck wild.