Movie Review: ‘Jack Reacher’

Tom Cruise, Lee Child and Rosamund Pike in Jack Reacher
Tom Cruise is Reacher, Lee Child is desk sergeant and Rosamund Pike is Helen in JACK REACHER, from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Reviewed by Ian Forbes

Most loyal readers know I’m not much for reading books (hello, film critic). Still, there was a time when I poured through the pages of authors like Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and John Grisham … feel free to draw the obvious connection regarding their works making it to the big screen. Well, another author, Lee Child, is having their work brought to life in movie theaters and the result is Jack Reacher.

I’m told the character is written as a big, imposing man – the type who could have played NFL linebacker. Well, with Brian Bosworth’s acting career decades past, the filmmakers went with another huge chunk of man meat: Tom Cruise.

Wait … What?

Well, he does get a prominent producer credit and the screenwriter/director Christopher McQuarrie wrote the script for Valkyrie so there’s a connection there.

No, wait … I’m still confused.

Oh, that’s right. Tom Cruise is a huge international box office draw. Why worry about authenticity to the source material when there’s money to be made? (You can’t see it right now but I’m shaking my head and sighing heavily.)

Tossing aside that odd casting, we move onto the female lead: Rosamund Pike. She’s playing a defense lawyer tasked with keeping a man everyone believes is guilty of a mass shooting off of death row. After 12 seconds of meeting Reacher, an ex-military investigator with a shadowy past that’s anything but shadowy, she hires him on to take the lead in helping her build their case. Along the way, they’ll share awkward/unrealistic sexual tension and she’ll make stupid decision after stupid decision (because why write a smart female lawyer character when the dumb ones are just so much more fun?).

Oh, and did I mention her acting is more wooden than a forest and that her expressions range from wide-eyed surprise to making googly eyes at Cruise? Well, it’s true so there you go.

Richard Jenkins and Robert Duvall put in a few days of work on the film too. I’m guessing the catering was too good to pass up. Really, the only interesting casting comes from bringing in acclaimed director Werner Herzog to play the disfigured man pulling the evil strings. His character is largely a cliché but then again, so is everything else in the movie.

There are a couple of halfway decent fight scenes but there’s a lot of immeasurably heavy-handed foreshadowing, obvious plot twists, and pithy dialogue to suffer through between each one. Getting back to the authors I touched upon earlier, what this movie most closely resembles is what it would be like to film the worst John Grisham novel and make it worse along the way just for good measure.

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had. I hadn’t laughed that hard AT a movie since the latest Twilight. But I don’t pay for these things (aside from with bits of time and my soul). The more important question is whether you like spending $64 dollars to go to the movies and giggle at the awful terribleness happening on-screen in front of you? If you prefer that your time and money go to something worthwhile and satisfying, choose something else … almost anything else right now really.

Jack Reacher is the kind of stuff you expect in January, when studios are dumping their lost causes and focusing their true attention on marketing their awards contenders and happy to let the dregs of their celluloid shelf get a few showings in before being relegated to the DVD market. Cruise’s involvement is clearly the only reason for such a cushy release date and even putting aside one’s ability to take him quasi-seriously, everything else going on is just so bad it doesn’t matter.


Jack Reacher hits theaters on December 21, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material.

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