When I was younger, I didn’t have much patience for procedural dramas. Now in my old age, I’ve discovered a love of the genre. I’m a Law and Order junkie. There is something about it that, when executed well can be just as riveting and fun as a good Michael Bay film. Yes, I like Michael Bay! Tom Cruise returns to action with Jack Reacher.
Director Christopher McQuarrie (primarily known as a writer – Valkyrie, The Usual Suspects and others) creates a very tense 10 minutes when we watch a mysterious sniper scope out a busy downtown business district. Usually when we see Pittsburgh, it is blue-collar, dirty and industrial. Not here, we get big bold sweeps of a beautiful, clean, vibrant downtown with a modern stadium, gleaming bridges and more.
The camera uses the sniper scope view as we watch people just walking by and doing whatever it is people do, blissfully unaware of the danger. When the shots ring out, it does get to you and is very affecting. Now would it have been this affecting if the incident of last week didn’t happen? Probably not.
Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is based on the popular novels by author Lee Childs. Reacher is typical archetype – the mysterious ex-military man with a past who comes to town to right the wrongs of the world.
When Barr (Joseph Sikora) is caught, he proclaims his innocence to his lawyer Helen (Joseph Sikora) and Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo). All he wants is Jack Reacher. Reacher is there to make sure Barr gets the needle and wants to make sure the evidence against Barr sticks.
For a man who is in his 50s now (god I feel old), the slow aging Cruise is at the top of his game. The movie doesn’t have very much action in it, but what is there, all the trademark “Cruisims” are on full display. The Cruise strut, the slightly menacing “smirk” right before he beats down some goons outside the bar. There is a reason Cruise has been an A lister his entire career. He just has that quality.
While the movie is serious, McQuarrie does a good job of sprinkling in some off kilter humor as well. There’s a cute moment where Reacher ends a car chase by getting out of a car and blending in with the crowd. It made me laugh the first time I saw the scene in the trailer. Yes, it is kind of implausible but funny. Another memorable moment happens with a couple of meth drug dealers can’t coordinate their attack on Reacher and end up in a little Abbott and Costello situation.
At a little over two hours pacing becomes an issue with the movie, there is not enough story here to justify the run time and it starts to drag a bit in the middle. There is also a bit towards the end where one of the character’s motivation is explained simply by saying “like I had a choice,” which leads you to believe there is more to his story than we got. Considering we didn’t know anything about the character to begin with, the idea that they turned does not necessarily matter.
While the cast is generally good, most of them are straight out of central casting and their characters are not as memorable, nor as menacing as they should be – especially Jai Courtney as the real Sniper and lead stooge. I’m not sure why Director Werner Herzog is in this as the head, generic, Russian bad guy The Zec.
Tom Cruise is really why you want to see this movie. The material is solid, there’s just enough action to keep you interested. I would be down for more of Cruise as Jack Reacher. This is how you do an adaptation – you do not need to know anything about the source material (I didn’t) to enjoy it and now I kind of want to read the books.
Final Grade B