Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jack Reacher

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.
2012. Rated PG-13, 130 minutes.
Werner Herzog
Alexia Fast
Josh Helman
Dylan Kussman
Joseph Sikora

Our movie begins with a seemingly random shooting spree. From a parking deck across the street, sniper James Barr (Sikora) picks off five people, gets back into his van and speeds away. Through some crack police work, Det. Emerson (Oyelowo) figures out who the bad guy is, takes the SWAT team over to the guy’s house and arrests him. While awaiting trial in prison, some fellow inmates lay a beat-down on Barr. Before falling into a coma, he requests that Emerson, and District Attorney Rodin (Jenkins) get Jack Reacher (Cruise). They have no idea how to get a hold of Mr. Reacher since he’s been missing for the last few years. Luckily for them, Reacher catches wind of the shooting on the news and just strolls into the police station on his own. In a strange move for both parties considering Reacher’s feelings on the matter, he winds up working for Helen (Pike), Barr’s defense attorney, who also happens to be the daughter of the DA. Reacher investigating the crime ensues.

If you’re a Tom Cruise hater, there is no reason for you to watch this movie or read beyond this point. You've already decided not to see this movie. And yes, he more or less plays Tom Cruise. This character feels no different than Ethan Hawke from the Mission: Impossible flicks, or from his character in Knight and Day, or any number of films where he’s tasked with saving the day. On the other hand, if the mere mention of his name does not make you physically ill, then stick it out. By this point, he seems to have become a one trick pony. Thankfully, it is not a terrible trick.

Fortunately, our supporting cast is solid. Pike does fine work as Barr’s lawyer. She’s delightfully defiant in her willingness to defend an apparently guilty man. The drawback is that her chemistry with Cruise is a bit off. This is, at least partly, due to the script. It can’t figure out if it wants there to be sexual tension between them or not. Things initially head down that path, but the trip is abandoned. Richard Jenkins is great, as always, albeit in brief bursts of screen time. During the movie’s latter parts it is completely stolen by Robert Duvall and, surprisingly, famed director Werner Herzog. The two find themselves on opposing sides, but neither is any less enjoyable than the other. We just enjoy them differently. Duvall brings us comic relief while Herzog creeps us out.

Since we follow him around much of the time, we must get back to our hero. Reacher goes all over town chasing down leads and, as expected, this gets him into the occasional scrape. We focus more on the following of the clues than the violence. The movie is successful with this as what’s going on becomes increasingly interesting. There are just enough twists within the narrative to keep us paying attention to what’s between action scenes. This is very important because there really is not that much action. That fact, plus our expectations, for those of us who have seen the trailer, help create an identity crisis for our feature. It never seems sure if it’s a procedural or an action flick. As the former, things tend to come a little too easily for our hero. As the latter, as I've mentioned, there’s not quite enough of it. Of course, our finale is one where bullets and fists fly. While that’s not terribly original, it is entertaining. For some, however, it may be too little too late.

Overall, Jack Reacher is a fun movie. It’s a popcorn flick with ever-so-slightly more on its mind than the usual. We get an intriguing tale with some enjoyable performances. It’s not a bad way to pass two hours. That said, you must understand that if you’re looking for a non-stop action shoot ‘em up, this is not it.

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