Jack Reacher (2012) a (mildly) belated review

Tom Cruise is…Jack Reacher.  Jack Reacher, of course, is the protagonist of a several books by author Lee Child.  When it was announced Mr. Cruise would play the titular character in a feature film, there was much teeth-gnashing among fans of the novels.

Jack Reacher, as described by Mr. Child, was a mountain of a man, tall and strong, and Tom Cruise…wasn’t.  Isn’t.  So, understandably, fans were incensed that he should be given the role.  I can honestly say the last time I saw that much controversy about the casting of a famous actor in a role familiar to legions of book fans might well have been Tom Cruise again, this time as the vampire Lestat in Interview With A Vampire.  In that case, the author of that book, Anne Rice, was at first just as seemingly aghast at the casting of Mr. Cruise as the fans were, though later on she considerably tempered her words and even acknowledged he did a good job in the role, something I agree with.

In fact, I don’t have much of a problem with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, either.  He eschews much of his trademark smiling/smirking and instead takes on the role as if he were doing a Clint Eastwood type imitation.  There is very little levity to this particular character, after all.

The story starts with a mysterious man driving his van to an upper level in a parking lot, pulling out a rifle, and shooting five people across the river from his position.  The authorities are quickly on the case and find considerable evidence that points them directly to an Iraq war vet who has a dark past.  The evidence against him is so airtight that, after arresting the suspect, they demand he confess to his crimes to avoid a quick (and harsh) judgment.

The suspect doesn’t, instead asking for ex-military police officer Jack Reacher.  However, before that request is heard by Reacher, he sees the news of the crime and goes to the city it occurred in himself, intent on…well, that is never really made all that clear.  I suppose he went there to rub the subject’s guilt in his face or something.  For you see, Reacher and the alleged sniper had a history in Iraq.  The sniper never killed anyone in combat and when he was very close to the end of his tour of duty he went rogue and took out a group of contractors.  As it turned out, the contractors were criminals and because of that it was decided by the higher ups to hush the entire matter.  Jack Reacher, however, knew the suspect had committed a cold blooded crime and wanted him to meet his justice.

However, upon hearing about the suspect’s request for him and after being convinced by the defense attorney (a lovely blonde played by Rosamund Pike, natch) to take on the case, Reacher decides to investigate.  Soon, he realizes the “airtight” evidence might be just a little too good.

I won’t go into too many more spoilers regarding Jack Reacher, but suffice to say the film is a solid if not outstanding effort, a decent way of passing time but a film that doesn’t reward careful scrutiny.  After the horrific events in the first part of the film, the crime itself recedes into the background and the story becomes a typical good-guy-versus-fearsome-bad-guys drama.

At one point in the film, after an extended car chase, Reacher ditches his car and merges into a group of people waiting at a bus stop.  Many, many police cars come roaring in to surround the abandoned car and –extremely improbably given the horrific sniper deaths the city has just gone through- the waiting passengers don’t point out Reacher to any of the police.  One of them even gives him his baseball cap so that he can hide.  (This scene can be found below, toward the end of the film’s trailer)

Good thing the citizens of Boston weren’t quite that willing to accept a total stranger in their midst while witnessing a massive police hunt.

Still, the main problem with Jack Reacher and what keeps it from rising from being a good action film to being a truly great one is that there is never a point you don’t feel like you’re watching a movie.  There is an artificiality to the product, from the suspect whose case is so completely airtight against him -yet who you know is innocent- to the lovely foil to the stalwart strong and silent type hero to the despicable (and ill-defined in terms of their actual end game) villains to the…I could go on and on, but what’s the point?

As I said, Jack Reacher is a good action film that moves well and gives you plenty to see. Just don’t go in there expecting to have your socks knocked off.