Film Geek Central’s own Jesse Hoheisel also reviewed JACK REACHER, and you can check out his review here
I haven’t read any of the Jack Reacher novels (this movie is based off of ONE SHOT). I never really heard of them (since I’m pretty naive to the literary world). I didn’t know until I was watching the movie that it was a mystery film. But I was still looking forward to it because I really loved writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s first feature film, WAY OF THE GUN. I was excited for his second film as director, 12 years after his debut.
So Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher, an ex-military detective who has been requested to investigate a murder that involves a soldier who served with him. A sniper has taken out 5 seemingly innocent victims randomly, and the police think it’s Reacher’s old Army mate. But of course, the deeper he digs, the more they find out it’s some sort of conspiracy. Reacher teams up with the defensive lawyer on the case, Helen, as the two get more over their heads the further they investigate.
I honestly thought this was going to be a sort of huge action movie when I saw the trailers, so I was quite surprised that it turned out just to be a run-of-the-mill mystery. That’s not to say I don’t like these types of movies, just that a lot of them are kind of repetitive to me. The movie does start off nicely, though. We see the sniper taking out his victims, and it’s a really intense and well crafted sequence. However, with the recent events that happened last week in Connecticut, it’s even more disturbing to watch this scene, especially since there’s a child involved. But still, the scene works really well, and it’s a great way to captivate the viewer.
Then we meet Cruise as Jack Reacher. I was kind of confused by his character. I’m not sure if it’s the way he was written or the way Cruise portrayed him, but I couldn’t tell just what kind of person he was. In some scenes he’s ultra serious, and in other moments he makes wisecracks. It was kind of weird. The whole movie was like that to me actually. It’s ultra grim and serious one minute, and then someone says a cheesy line that makes the audience laugh the next minute. It has an odd tone, one that I thought never found the right balance for the movie to work.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s some pretty awesome things in the flick. We get a great car chase sequence that seems to be a throwback to old school chases from the 60’s and 70’s. And the climatic shootout (while not quite as fantastic as WAY OF THE GUN) is well crafted and incredibly thrilling. There’s some great film geek moments there, like when Reacher throws down his gun to fight one of the main baddies one-on-one. That was bad ass! And though it was a bit silly, there’s a cool scene with Reacher kicking the living tar out of some punks outside a bar. Even though there are some thrilling moments, I still would like to stress that it’s NOT an action movie. It’s more like a mystery/thriller with 2 great action scenes.
I’m a big Tom Cruise fan. He seems to throw himself 100% into every role he tackles. This one is no exception. He seems to be having fun here, but the trouble here is with his character, not his performance. And at 50 years old, isn’t he a bit too old to have 20 year olds pining for him at the bar? Rosamund Pike does a decent job as the lawyer helping Reacher. This is also the first movie that I noticed that her boobs are kind of big. It’s not my fault! She kept on wearing these really low-cut shirts that had her boobs practically pushing out of her top. Even my Film Geek Central colleague Jesse noticed this too, as he pinched my leg during a scene in which she leans over, showing every viewer her goods (he also had a giant grin on his face). Mmmmm. It was nice.
Okay, I’m done being a guy now, and back to the review. Richard Jenkins plays Helen’s District Attorney father. He’s fine, but doesn’t do anything to write home about. I really liked David Oyelowo as the head detective on the case who is always giving Reacher a hard time. It’s a cool character and a sturdy performance. Alexia Fast does some nice work in a brief role as Sandy, who is somehow mixed up in this mystery. Now, legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog is also in the film. He gives a deliciously over-the-top performance that would be right at home in a Roger Moore Bond film. He’s a hoot! Unfortunately, it’s the wrong type of performance for this movie. Herzog is acting as if he were in a different film entirely. And of course, Robert Duvall is amusing as a gun range owner who helps Reacher. I guess you could say he’s the comic relief, but not that much.
Director McQuarrie still has the directing chops, as the movie is really well put together, visually speaking. He doesn’t use any of that shaky cam. The movie has a really nice visual flow going on. It’s precise, smooth filmmaking. It’s refreshing to see every single thing going on in an action scene (unlike something sloppy, like say…. EAGLE EYE). The car chase and shootout seemed to be carefully planned out. I would love to see McQuarrie helm a Bond movie next. He also wrote the script, but it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s some fun one-liners that would be right at home in LETHAL WEAPON picture, but I still had a tough time figuring out what kind of movie JACK REACHER wanted to be. It’s an odd tone. I didn’t “dislike” it, but often the uneven tone had me scratching my head. At least LETHAL WEAPON balanced the comedy and the heavy drama stuff more convincingly. This one struggles. The score by Joe Kraemer is mostly good, though the main “JFK”-like theme was kind of weird. It sounded like it was from some political thriller like MURDER AT 1600 or something.
Though I enjoyed the action set pieces, I wasn’t too involved with the characters or the story. It’s nothing special. It’s really nothing more than a standard murder mystery with a pair of outstanding sequences to wake you up. This film is so well-directed, that it almost fools you into thinking it’s a good movie. It’s not bad by any measure, but since it had a hard time figuring out just what kind of tone to have, it’s not wholly successful either. People who aren’t as picky with their films will likely be more forgiving, but it didn’t quite work for me. ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material.
– Running time: 2hrs 10min.