If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Right off the bat Tom Cruise has quite a bit going against him with Jack Reacher. Fans of the novel are quick to point out that the first thing we learn about Jack Reacher is that he’s described as 6’5″ and over 200lbs of solid muscle. Tom Cruise in contrast is 5’7” and arguably weighs no more than 170lbs. On top of that, people generally dislike Tom Cruise for a variety of reasons; he’s a “crazy Scientologist” and treated Oprah’s couch like Rick James would have. I preface my review this way because Tom Cruise carries a considerable amount of baggage. In my opinion, the most relevant reason why Jack Reacher may be disappointing is that it’s advertised as an action movie when in actuality it’s more of an action-thriller. While there are in fact bits of action littered throughout the movie, the movie moves at a considerably slow pace.
Jack Reacher is a former military police investigator who became a drifter and only “cares about what’s right”. This usually leads to Reacher pummeling or killing whoever he feels is in the wrong. I found it ironic that the trailer mentions that Reacher “doesn’t care about evidence” when in fact he’s actually an excellent detective. The “Who done it?” narrative helps elevate Jack Reacher from a simple mindless action flick.
The plot centers around the murders of 5 people who are killed seemingly at random. The prime suspect is former Army sniper, Barr (played by Joseph Sikora). The opening scene is especially powerful given the recent shootings. As the murders are investigated, we learn who the victims were which compounds the tragedy. Barr is given the “option” of taking a plea bargain serving a life sentence or receiving the death penalty. Barr responds by asking the DA to, “Get Jack Reacher”. And that’s about where Jack Reacher enters the picture.
While Jack Reacher reaches dark places at times, its also sprinkled with comedic bits here and there. There are a couple of bits which feel silly and somewhat out of place but they’re funny nevertheless. Jack Reacher himself is pretty damn cocky albeit witty which accounts for most of the comedy of the movie. One of the comedic gags is the sexual tension between Reacher and defense attorney Helen (played by Rosamund Pike). Well, more so Helen being smitten by Reacher and getting flustered by seeing him standing around shirtless.
I felt that the weakest parts of Jack Reacher were the movie’s antagonists. The main villain, The Zec (Played by Werner Herzog) in particular. The Zec feels a bit cartoonish in this world and seems like he would be better suited as a Bond villain. Once his motivation is revealed he feels that much more out of place and played up. The motivations of one of the other main villains is completely non-existent. I won’t spoil it since it’s important to the plot but it’s completely glossed over and never addressed. Most of the other villains that Reacher encounters are easily beaten up or killed, saved for the main henchmen, Charlie (played by Jal Courtney). He’s Reacher’s biggest threat and even then he still doesn’t live all that much longer than the other villains. He does, however, create an opportunity to include a completely unnecessary but enjoyable fight scene towards the end. The fight scenes, which are pretty few and far in between, are gritty and cringe worthy at times, in a good way. Another knock against Jack Reacher is that some of the plot twists are a bit predictable. That said, I wouldn’t say they were so predictable that they made the movie less enjoyable.
Overall, I would recommend Jack Reacher to anyone who enjoys a good detective story and doesn’t mind a few trite Hollywood movie cliches. The fighting is brutal and the car chases are exciting which are the hallmarks of what make this movie work. If you’re expecting to see something great, then you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking to be entertained, then hop off your couch, borrow a muscle car and head out to the movies!