Jack Reacher

By Casey Tourangeau

Mailed on December 26, 2012

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Dear Mindy Marin

Dear Mindy,

I hope die-hard Jack Reacher fans didn't blame you when they learned Tom Cruise would play the title role in the character's first film adaptation--named, lazily, Jack Reacher. This choice, being a Tom Cruise production staring Tom Cruise, was probably never yours to begin with. But really, does it matter if a character who, as described in Lee Child's novels, stands 6'5" tall and weighs 250 pounds is played by an actor known for being, well, the opposite of that? No, not if the movie is good. Then the decision can stand on is own merits and cries of miscasting will fade into the distance.

Unfortunately Jack Reacher is not good. But—twist!—it's not because of Cruise. He may not have the size necessary to intimidate with presence alone, but as an emotionless dialogue delivery device, he's fine. Jack Reacher is awesome at everything he does. In fine Cruise fashion, he continually tells other characters exactly what he is going to do and then we watch him do it. Exactly like he said. He's a built-in spoiler for his own movie. That can work to a certain level when all Cruise is asked to do is be awesome at flying F-15s or scaling the Burj Khalifa, but not so well when he's imposing his own brutal version of justice on others. Actually, it's kind of repugnant.

Reacher, a man living off the grid (after all, how could one so righteous associate himself with the rest of us sheep?) is called in to help find the truth in what seems to be an airtight case: James Barr, an ex-Marine sniper has shot 5 seemingly random people in Pittsburgh. The cops have found, to quote a good Cruise movie (Minority Report), an "orgy of evidence," and are ready to send Barr to the gas chamber. Unfortunately, instead of confessing, Barr simply scrawls "Get Jack Reacher" on his confession sheet. Will Reacher come? Will he take the case and find out the truth or will he hop a bus out of town and make this the shortest feature film ever released by Hollywood? If you can answer those questions, I'm afraid nothing that follows will surprise you either.

Casting must have been fun though. I'm guessing that you, like me, are a fan of Michael Raymond-James, although his presence here (and the whole land development plot) only reminded me of how much more I like Terriers. Jai White makes a better impression as an icy-cold hired gun. And you got to meet filmmaker Werner Herzog. I assume, at least. He may have been chosen to play the villain for you in a Cruise script note that said "Werner Herzog type,". But his calm, classically German Herzoginess seems to have been employed as a distraction from a woefully underwritten mastermind.

Did I forget to mention Rosamund Pike as a crusading defence lawyer? I guess I'm giving her character as much attention as the film does. This is a man's world written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, where character is defined through violence (although I have a feeling the source material is as much to blame). It even pauses to take a shot at "soccer moms" who are too timid to understand why guns are awesome.

And that's why Reacher is the hero of this story: he's the best at killing, with guns or otherwise. In one scene, he even manages to curb-stomp a man without a curb. Jack Reacher is the curb.



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