Review: “Jack Reacher” is very good, but shootings will hurt

December 21st, 2012 at 12:18 am by under Entertainment

They say timing is everything… had “Jack Reacher” hit theaters two weeks ago, the opening scene from the point of view of a sniper would have been considerably less uncomfortable to watch.

But we live in different times… in just the last two weeks, we’ve seen random public shootings in Portland, OR and Newtown, CT… plus countless other local shootings between people that knew each other.

So you’ve been warned, if the events of Newtown, Portland, or other shootings are weighing heavy on you, you will probably want to wait to see this movie.

“Jack Reacher” poster courtesy Paramount Pictures

(My spoiler-free review)

“Jack Reacher” is a great action thriller, with just the right amount of action and mystery, plus little doses of humor along the way.  Tom Cruise is very good as a butt kickin’ former military police investigator, based on the very successful books by Lee Child.  I haven’t read them, but screened the movie with someone who has read the books (*more on that later*).

If it weren’t for the very recent loss of 28 innocent lives in Newtown, CT and Portland, OR this movie would do very well at the box office.

Jack Reacher – both the movie and the main character are much grittier than most  Cruise characters and movies.  In his own words – he’s a good guy, but not a hero… he plays by his own rules, but he seeks justice.   Its the kind of character and story ripe for a franchise with sequels… its a thriller and action movie… its a movie that will appeal more to men, but is not just a “guy movie”.  This onion has plenty of layers to be peeled back an observed…. we get a lot of character depth with Reacher; who he was and where he came from, but it also seems like there is a lot more to learn and stories to be told.  Reacher is a character that, after a few minutes, feels like someone we’ve met before, but he still has his own style and edge… and darkness.  We root for him to get the bad guys…. but as cringe that he may be taking his methods just a little too far.

Jack and the police detective (David Oyelowo) that is investigating the sniper have a cat and mouse game going through the movie – with Reacher appearing to be just a little ahead of the local police in his efforts to put together the clues and solve what appears to be an open and shut case.

Cruise’s performance is good, he is bold and charismatic with that darker edge just below the surface.  He is joined by Rosamund Pike as the headstrong lawyer Helen – who’s chosen to defend the sniper, her father, the district attorney played convincingly by Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall adds some veteran acting and adds to comedic relief throughout the movie.  Werner Herzog’s character as the mysterious “Zec” is a little over-the-top, but also a one note bad guy, who I hoped would have more depth.

The movie looks good, the ominous tone works with the story… and Reacher’s character.  Christopher McQuarrie’s adaptation of Child’s writing is strong, with smart and sharp dialogue for an action movie.  And while some of the action will make some of the audience uneasy, it also features a great car chase.  In addition to the depth of characters we get early on, I enjoyed that McQuarrie slowly ramped up the action with each sequence more intense than the last.  There’s not anything entirely new in the movie, but its very watchable.

**The main concerns of those who have read the books and are more familiar with Reacher and his exploits are that Cruise doesn’t fit the physical characteristics of Reacher… mostly in his size. Cruise is reportedly 5’7″ while Reacher is described as 6’5″.  Cruise is only two years younger than Reacher, and both can be described as “good looking”.  So while those who read the books may be bothered by the casting, I only had one problem with it… a 5’7″ guy fighting big angry thigs that are a foot taller.  But after a little research, I discovered that Reacher is very intelligent and uses mathematics in his fighting… so when taking on a larger opponent, he would just use his quickness or gravity to take down those big guys.  Seldom do books translate as well to the big screen as they are conceived in the minds of those who read them.  Between casting challenges, production issues, and budget constraints, most viewers who read the books leave the theater somewhat disappointed… but it was not as bitter this time around.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Which then leaves me with just one problem – the recent public shootings that killed random people, with no disrespect to those victims, had this movie come out two weeks ago, I would have been uneasy, but not bothered by the imagery of the terrible act carried out in the opening scene… I would have given it 8.0 out of 10 … so that’s what I’ll stick with…. if you can handle the the opening scene, you’ll enjoy the final scenes.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers):

Tom Cruise, Richard Jenkins, and David Oyelowo in “Jack Reacher” photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

“Jack Reacher”

(2012) (rated: PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material)
(2 hrs, 10 min)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall

Director: Christopher McQuarrie  ["The Way of the Gun" (2000)]

Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay)["The Tourist" (2010), "Valkyrie" (2008), "The Usual Suspects" (1995)], Lee Child (book)

Genre: Action / Crime / Drama

The Plot: A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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“Jack Reacher” poster and photos courtesy Paramount Pictures

Rosamund Pike and Tom Cruise in “Jack Reacher” photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

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