12th Apr2013

‘Jack Reacher’ Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall | Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie


For all the negative press Tom Cruise seems to have attracted over the years, it’s a testament to the man’s work rate and sense in career choices that he’s still one of the world’s biggest stars, and with Oblivion and All You Need Is Kill already shot, he’s about to unleash his latest as he takes on the role of a towering, blonde and hard as all hell ex-military policeman and makes it entirely his own in Jack Reacher, an adaptation of Lee Child’s bookOne Shot.

For all the buzz around the film which has largely centered on just how different Cruise is physically from the character in the book, it’s a testament to the filmmakers that he still fits the role entirely. Jack Reacher is a man who knows how to charm the ladies by doing virtually nothing, can pound heads with incredible ease and almost always manages to see two steps ahead of everyone else in the room. This is essentially a role Cruise can do in his sleep and yet he is different here, while not entirely convincing as a drifter, a step too far for a man frankly as good looking and well-kept as he is, he has an acidic, surly edge here which gives a little more spice than we are used to. He’s unafraid to offend and while not quite being sociopathic, he hurts a lot of people and doesn’t care all that much. It’s slightly left of centre and while for some actors that wouldn’t be enough, for Cruise is actually quite refreshing.

Also impressing is screenwriter/director Christopher McQuarrie’s take on the material, a rather old school feeling venture which recalls Dirty Harry openly in its distressing opening sequence and at various times throughout (this being a case where the 12A rating is in my mind incorrect and will cause many younger audience members discomfort), and with action which while nicely pulse pounding, never strays into a CG explosions filled epic which some filmmakers undoubtedly would have chosen. No, instead we have a restrained, rather quiet film which lets the actions do the talking with Joe Kraemer’s score only filling in beats when necessary and barely being used over action at all. It’s all very refreshing and feels made for a more adult audience, something increasingly sparse in today’s blockbuster landscape.

McQuarrie also makes solid choices in the rest of the casting. The Cruise/Reacher differences aside, most of the advance talk has been on the idiosyncratic casting of Werner Herzog as the villain and indeed, he’s a wonderfully bizarre presence lending an awful lot of menace to a character who is never a physical match for Reacher and instead remains a puppet master, having less screen-time than you may expect but ruling the roost when he does. Rosamund Pike is capable support in the female lead, exhibiting fun lusty chemistry with Cruise though her character goes down some disappointingly damsel in distress avenues. David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins and Robert Duvall add some character to some rather more background roles also though special mention must go to Jai “John McClane’s son” Courtney who is supremely threatening in what is in terms of screen appearances the lead bad guy role.

While Jack Reacher is a bit of a delight for the most part, there are things which drag it down however. While McQuarrie keeps things defiantly low-key for much of the proceedings, there are some bizarre shifts in tone at times, lurching into moments of comedy which do work as a release valve for the audience but feels like it’s all from a different film, one fight scene in particular basically turning into a deleted scene from The Three Stooges, these moments feeling a tad studio-encouraged in an attempt to garner a lower classification, which has unadvisedly worked. It’s also fair to say that there are few surprises here, the various twists and turns of the plot being pretty well telegraphed and offering little in terms of originality, though that’s likely to be expected in all.

Jack Reacher is a promising start to a potential franchise which sees Tom Cruise’s action persona stretching his legs and coming up with something which feels of its day but with a respectful look to the past thrillers of years gone by. A pacey and exciting watch, it’s an easy recommend.

Jack Reacher is released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 22nd.


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