Reacher Feature: Tom Cruise swings hard at this action-detective flick, but it’s better suited for basic cable.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The trailer makes Tom Cruise’s latest foray into action look like Jason Bourne channeling Martin Riggs, but it’s more like a midseason episode of a television detective show. Sure, the finale is a standard shootout sequence xeroxed out of every other cop flick, but, yeah: you might stick around to watch if you were channel surfing, but it seems like maybe too little to get in exchange for a trip to The Movies.
The part-of-a-series feel is no accident: Jack Reacher is adapted from one of the so-far 17 novels about the titular character, a highly decorated former military investigator, written by Lee Child – and it’s one of the books right in the middle. This is not Reacher’s origin story; it’s not his final stand. It’s just a regular day for him. There’s so little at stake for Reacher that it’s hard to figure out why he hangs around to be a character in this story at all. He’s drawn to Pittsburgh after a former soldier he once investigated in Afghanistan is on the news for a murderous shooting spree. Reacher already had this guy pegged as precisely the sort of ex-military nutjob who would do exactly this, so he stays in Pittsburgh to help the defense attorney run down some evidence only because there would be no movie if he didn’t.
This all sucks more than a little because it means that director/screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie has to whip up some stakes for Reacher – or has to transfer these lame stakes over from the book unaltered – that involves putting the defense attorney in jeopardy. Oh, didn’t I mention? The defense attorney is a pretty blond (Rosemund Pike). Lady lawyers are the new damsels in distress, allowing a movie to have its feminist cake and reduce her to crumbs, too.
It’s not all bad. Apparently some readers were upset that Cruise doesn’t meet the physical description of the character in the book – no amount of movie fakery could convince us that Cruise is six-five and 250 pounds, and the film doesn’t try. But McQuarrie and Cruise mine some diverting humor from how this incarnation of Reacher is a small man who uses his big opponents’ size against them. There’s some smart procedural stuff here, yet the motif of how the U.S. military breeds crazy killer types never gets enough of a workout. And while introducing wonderfully idiosyncratic German filmmaker Werner Herzog as the villain seems like the Best Thing Ever – the man has a voice and an accent and a delivery that was made to monologue evil plans – he’s woefully underused. And when we find out exactly what his evil plan entails, it’s so mundane that it’s hard to believe anyone thought to spin a movie out of it.
It’s a shame, because at first I figured Jack Reacher for that rarity, a smart grownup movie. It’s not dumb, but it’s not much of a movie, either.
JACK REACHER (2) •Directed by Christopher McQuarrie • Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins •Rated PG-13 •130 min •At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Lighthouse Cinemas.