Jack Reacher

Posted December 21, 2012 by in


Total Score

3.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: thriller
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins
Length: 130 minutes
Release Date: 12/21/2012
Studio: Mutual Film Company, Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions

What We Liked:

solid action set pieces, interesting lead character

What We Disliked:

story lacks mystery for first 40 minutes, underdeveloped supporting character
What We Thought

“Jack Reacher” tells a good hard-boiled detective story, and could be the start of a fun franchise…

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
A sniper shoots five people at random from a parking garage.  Police arrest James Barr (Joseph Sikora), a former sniper for the army.  Barr mentions “Jack Reacher” before slipping into a coma after being beaten by inmates on the way to prison.
     District Attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) looks into who this “Jack Reacher” is.  Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a former M.P., and has a history with Barr in his work as an investigator.  Rodin wants answers, but Reacher is a drifter now, with no address or contact info.  But Rodin doesn’t need to find Reacher for answers.  Reacher finds him.
     Reacher heard about the shootings and Barr’s arrest, and is determined to deal with Barr himself this time, once and for all.  However, Barr’s own attorney Helen Rodin–yes, the D.A.’s own daughter (Rosamund Pike)–asks Reacher to work for her as her lead investigator.  Reacher takes the case, and gains the attention of a dangerous conspiracy.
     Unfortunately, there is no mystery in the shooting itself because a single camera angle reveals Barr’s guilt or innocence.  The case is bigger than just the shooting, but it’s a missed opportunity to create drama, telling us too much, too soon.  The flunkies Reacher faces are no match for him, and the people pulling the strings aren’t very clever.  A word of advice to aspiring conspirators:  when you’re having someone followed, don’t use a car registered to your company.
     In a good story, scenes are like a line of dominoes.  One pushes over the next in a chain of cause-and-effect.  However, there’s a chase scene late in Jack Reacher that doesn’t advance the story, seemingly done just to satisfy genre conventions.  In other words, “It’s a thriller, so we need a chase scene going into the third act.”  As far as chase scenes go, done for its own sake, at least it’s well done.  Reacher and his quarry play vehicular hide-and-seek in tunnels and alleys, while the police are hot on Reacher’s tail.  The scene–and the movie as a whole–is done with smooth camera work and edited urgently but patiently, less like Alex Cross and more like Skyfall.
     The music lays it on thick when the main baddie is revealed, and his disfigurement comes off as silly rather than scary.  Pike does what she can with a limited role as the defense attorney, but the character isn’t developed enough to care about her fate.
     But don’t get me wrong.  Jack Reacher gets a lot right, and is overall a pretty good time.
     Following the shooting, Helen interviews the victims’ families.  The shooting is a horrible tragedy, and the film acknowledges this by devoting much of the first act to learning about each of them–they come off as real victims, making us want to see justice done for their memory.  Furthermore, this makes Helen an active agent of the story, at least initially.
     However, the tone becomes lighter as Reacher goes to work.  Reacher always has a comeback at the ready, and keeps a cool head.  There’s a bit of the hard-boiled detective Sam Spade in him, with a hint of Sherlock Holmes.  He has a good memory and uses reason to solve the case.
       There’s a fight scene where Reacher is surrounded by paid muscle.  They’re amateurs, and Reacher gives them every chance to walk away.  The inevitable fight is choreographed just right; no excessive kung fu-y flair.  Just realistic, practical moves dealt to put the other guy down quickly.  It’s brutal, but appropriate for the character and the scene.  Hey, he warned them.
     Jack Reacher has several humorous moments that make it enjoyable, such as a running gag with Reacher “borrowing” cars from people.  There’s a funny fight scene where two junkies ambush Reacher.  Reacher beats one of their heads in with the other man’s head.  The climax is fairly exciting–and funny for how badly outgunned Reacher is.
     Jack Reacher is based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child.  Though it’s the ninth book in the series, Jack Reacher covers as much as needed about Reacher’s origins; the film stands well on its own, without need of familiarity with the novels, in the way that Alex Cross was.  More than anything, Jack Reacher is a fun character, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him again.  Permission for sequel:  granted.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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