(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on December 29, 2012)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Rating: 2.5 stars
I suppose the biggest advantage with being a superstar with a lot of money is that, even if you’re a Scientologist, people take you seriously when you say you want to produce films. And so, British author Lee Child has spent a good while explaining to the media why Tom Cruise would make a good Jack Reacher. Thankfully, the military-policeman-turned-
vigilante character is American, and that spares us the trauma of having to decode Tom Cruise’s British accent.
A book that declares, “He had no remorse gene – it just wasn’t there” doesn’t sound like it could be particularly well-written, so I turned to Wikipedia for assistance. Apparently, the character has no driver’s licence, always checks in with an alias, is agoraphobic, listens to “a music collection in his head”, and has a tendency to breathe, “That’s for damn sure.” You’d think that takes care of most of the dialogue in the film, especially since Reacher’s said to be the quiet sort, but the screenplay is written by Christopher McQuarrie, who gave us The Usual Suspects. He manages to sustain some of our interest for most of the film, but chances are you’ll begin to yawn towards the end.
So, the film opens with five people being shot down in an open square. The cops make an arrest, and the accused gunman asks for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) after waking up from the coma. Old buddies and all that. So, Reacher gets in on an investigation that’s already complicated because the defence attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the daughter of the district attorney (Richard Jenkins). Of course, Reacher steps all over the DA and Lead Investigator’s toes just so he can be the tough guy, and perhaps make out with the hot chick leading the defence.
It’s all about Cruise – the only purpose most of the other actors serve is to exist, so that he can prove he’s better than all of them. Sadly, that only makes for a run-of-the-mill thriller we may feel we’ve seen before. There doesn’t appear to be much imagination involved even in coming up with names – the gun shop owner (Robert Duvall) is called ‘Cash’, and the Russian baddie ‘The Zec’ (Werner Herzog). That said, these two do give the movie something of a fillip, thanks largely to the actors playing those parts.
If the main aim of the film is to restore the audience’s faith in the American judicial system, it succeeds. If its main aim is to annoy American taxpayers about how their money is spent, it probably succeeds too. But if its main aim is to keep us entertained, it begins to sag at some point. Since the film has already been branded as the first edition of a franchise, we can only hope the direction gets tighter, and the characters more interesting.
The Verdict: Jack Reacher is yet another escapist action flick, partially disguised as a detective film.