DIR/WRI: Christopher McQuarrie • PRO: Tom Cruise, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Gary Levinsohn, Kevin J. Messick , Paula Wagner • DOP: Caleb Deschanel • ED: Kevin Stitt • DES: James D. Bissell • CAST: Werner Herzog, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall
The award-winning Jack Reacher character has given readers constant pleasure through Lee Child’s seemingly endless novelistic forays into his world, and he has now made the inevitable leap from page to screen. But who to play this 6ft 5in man of mystery, steel, and fire? The words ‘A Tom Cruise Production’ appear onscreen, sending familiar chills of fear as it is revealed that, yes, The Cruiser* (*trademark pending) is attempting to give birth to yet another franchise. For better or worse, this is a movie about whether Tom Cruise can still successfully kick ass and take names.
There are many things to like about this movie – the engaging plot, the well-rounded characters and the slightly 70’s action all hark back to a less complicated style of movie, and for the most part it plays like an amped-up John Grisham adaptation with added guns. These good points can, however, all be attributed to the base text, where the character development and drive of the story have been meticulously sculpted. The main downfall of this movie, it has to be said, is Tom Cruise and the weight of baggage he brings to every role. From his initial introduction there is so much about his interpretation of the character to find irritating: we get the tracking ‘back of head’ shot as the camera follows the enigmatic Reacher through a bar; girls’ heads turning in comical 1950’s ‘oh’ fashion as he struts through a corridor; and his end setup purchase of the ‘Cruise’ outfit – short leather jacket, white cotton top and super-cool, non-Dad jeans. Cruise is painfully trying to be an action hero who is cool and likeable – but the end result is off-putting and melodramatic. The bad guys in this movie are one-dimensional, providing standard if not always coherent villainous dealings. Leading the group is a damaged Russian prisoner, about as frightening as a two-legged Rottweiler (grizzled, but no real danger), who is more terrifyingly played by Werner Herzog – why he agreed to this movie is anybody’s guess.
While the film has some nicely crafted action sequences, the story itself is tied too closely to novel format – in fact, you can almost feel the cliff-hanger chapter endings punctuating the narrative throughout. The dialogue, too, can feel over-written, taking away from what could have been a simple and solid action movie. As the anchor of the entire movie, though, Cruise just does not swing it anymore. From his tired topless shots – which are scattered throughout the movie as some sort of twisted ‘treat’ – to the ‘I’m a good guy’ reminders of his inherent morality, the only thing he does with complete believability is run…because nobody runs like Tom Cruise. Robert Duvall appears as a grizzled gun-range owner, but his overdone ex-marine patter simply highlights how lost for ideas this movie is, and while Rosamund Pike is actually quite likeable as lawyer Helen Rodin, the overall effect is of actors phoning it in.
In the end, though, this is Tom Cruise’s vehicle, and it is by his performance that the entire show should be judged. His exhausting attempts at humour, topless appeals to who-knows-who and constant insistence on his ability to carry action movies have become something to pity rather than enjoy. While there are certainly those that would like this movie, it seems to me that the action is too slow, the plot too thick, and the main character too unbelievable for this to work as anything other than a Sunday night movie on television. Though Jack Reacher 2: Unreachable will most likely prove me wrong, overall I can’t imagine that it’s worth the ticket price.