Tuesday, January 22, 2013

“Jack Reacher” – A Tom Cruise production.

When I first heard about this movie, I had two immediate reactions – “what a stupid title” and “who the hell cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher?” If you’ve read any of Lee Child’s novels featuring Jack Reacher, you would immediately understand and probably share my reaction. Otherwise, my reaction wouldn’t make a lot of sense to you (though Jack Reacher is a stupid title regardless). You see, Reacher is described in the novels as six foot five inches tall, weighing 250 pounds, an ex-military policeman with an intimidating demeanor, whose “face looked like it had been chipped out of rock by a sculptor who had ability but not much time.” In other words, the exact opposite of Tom Cruise.

The answer to my second reaction occurs as soon as the movie begins when the words “A Tom Cruise Production” appear on the screen. So the answer to my question is Tom Cruise cast Tom Cruise. This also means that he very likely purchased the rights to all of the Jack Reacher novels, so Tom Cruise can be assured that Tom Cruise gets to continue indulging the worst case of Napoleon complex since Napoleon.

The answer to my first reaction isn’t nearly as simple. Again, readers familiar with the books would know that this movie should have been called One Shot, as that is the title of the book that the movie depicts. I suppose some marketing “geniuses” calculated that Jack Reacher would draw more as a title, but that doesn’t really make a lot of sense considering the only people who would recognize the name would also recognize the title One Shot. My theory is that Napoleon Cruise’s ego and wallet were the deciding factor.

Considering those two reactions, plus the fact that Hollywood has a nasty habit of ruining books, it’s obvious that my expectations going into the movie were pretty low. Much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying the movie and, even more improbably, liking Cruise’s performance. For me, I’ve never really believed Cruise as an action star, but have believed him as a lawyer or a sports agent. Maybe it’s just me, but answer me this – when A Few Good Men is on TNT and Mission Impossible is on TBS, which one are you watching for the seventy-ninth time?

Fortunately, Jack Reacher provides a good mix for everyone; something in the area of 25% Ethan Hunt and 75% Daniel Kaffee. It’s just enough action to make him a believable ex-soldier, while focusing more on his investigatory abilities, which is the main function of his character. The plot revolves around the murder of five people by a sniper and Reacher is asked to help with the investigation after the main suspect asks for him by name. The action comes in when he is forced to defend himself from bad guys, which thankfully only happens a couple of times.

By this point, you’re probably wondering if anyone else was in this movie or if Cruise performed it as a one man show (a horrifying proposition, by the way). The cast is filled out by Rosamund Pike, an attorney being helped by Reacher; Robert Duvall, a shooting range owner; Richard Jenkins, Pike’s father and district attorney; Werner Herzog, the bad guy; and David Oyelowo, the lead detective from the local police force. All of them play their parts well and keep the movie from being a two-hour Cruise-a-thon. More importantly, the story itself overpowers Cruise (which it should), engrossing the viewer in a very well-produced mystery that keeps the viewer in suspense.

Overall, the movie is a good piece of storytelling translated by a screenplay that stays honest to the source material. The director (Christopher McQuarrie) handles Cruise perfectly, exploiting his strengths as well as the rest of the cast. I’m not the only one who has enjoyed this movie, as it has grossed $155 million on a $60 million budget (as of January 21), meaning we’re almost guaranteed there will be a sequel. My reaction to that is now that they’ve burned Jack Reacher without using a subtitle, what is the sequel going to be titled? Because Jack Reacher 2 is even worse.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back. I know – I’m surprised too.

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