Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jack Reacher

It should be said with some consternation, that be is as it may, the film Jack Reacher reads a little differently than it might have a eight days ago.  Of course, for a genre feature with little interest in the real world whatsoever, one should probably just get over it and try and enjoy the ride, an intermittently bumpy one, but not without some mild pleasure to be sure, and forgo that a film revolving around a sniper who guns down five innocent strangers without any thought of real life tragedy.  Based on a series of successful detective novels by Lee Child, Jack Reacher, the title character, is a sort of modern Dirty Harry-type, a vigilante, a former army police officer, who has noir tales will always fashion, take the law in their own hands in the pursuit of justice.  The Jack in the books is described as an imposing 6'4 badass, whose chilly authority and mighty mass so to speak gets the job done.  The film casts Tom Cruise, and even though unfamiliar with the source material may feel inclined to call the casting suspect.  Cruise, a capable actor under the right tutelage, has a way of chipping away his boy scout persona within the confines of ace filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Mann and Oliver Stone, but his mystery man Jack Reacher feels more like posturing than anything else.

Christopher McQuarrie wrote and directed Jack Reacher (he previously scripted the Cruise vehicle Valkyre), and received well earned bona fides for his Academy Award winning screenplay to The Usual Suspects, one of the best crime thrillers of the past two decades, that it seems like a letdown that he would even pursue a mystery tale with so little mystery in itself.  A man is charged with the horrific and seemingly random shooting with a cavalcade of evidence point in his direction-- he's directive is to "get Jack Reacher."  Neither a friend or really an ally at least from the start, Cruise sashays into the scene, full of corny one-liners that may have been dated back in 40's era noir, and becomes the head investigator.  Aided and goaded by junior defense attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike), a pretty lady with daddy issues, going head to head against her father (played by Richard Jenkins) and against popular opinion, as one presumes (except the audience, who has witnessed the opening sequence of Jack Reacher) this dude is guilty as sin.

The action, or story points as it goes, kick in, as Reacher begins his kicking butt stuff, with Cruise caught in a one versus five showdown.  The trouble is, despite the faux tough guy dialogue and demeanor, Cruise still embodies the same angelic boy scout role he's played for years.  Worse yet, the scene seems to reek of certain vanity as well.  There's a few nice effects in the cool and icily filmed chiller (beautifully photographed by Caleb Deschanel) including a terrific (and nearly silent) chase scene part way through, a cleverly bent villain turn by Werner Herzog and a nice reunion of sorts between Cruise and his Days of Thunder co-star Robert DuVall, but Jack Reacher is mostly a meandering, easily reductive slice of junk food, strangely offered for holiday counter-programming.

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