‘Jack Reacher’

The Cheese Is Strong In This One

Hollywood has so lost its mojo, it’s stopped developing B fiction of its own; it’s adapting B fiction novels for the screen. It’s quite the pathetic turn of events because they then throw their A-List actors at these B fiction movies, even if the physiognomy does not fit. In the case of ‘Jack Reacher’, it appears the character’s physical stature has been shrunk for the silver screen.

I really dislike the ‘Ubiquitous Multipurpose Tom Cruise Character’ that inhabits the movies where Tom Cruise is the leading guy. I can’t tell them apart, I don’t think they’re interesting guys, but they seem to be “the guy” audiences can invest themselves in order to put themselves through an ordeal that is a Tom Cruise movie. He’s proven in the past he can do much more than the ‘Ubiquitous Multipurpose Tom Cruise Character’ – like studio boss Lee Grossman in ‘Tropic Thunder’ – but there he is, smarmy smug and slick. Somehow the UMTCC is particularly ill-fitting for this role and so we have a movie that is straining at the seems for story credibility.

What’s Good About It

This is tough. Maybe it’s unintended hilarity of B-fiction-tough-guy dialogue. Maybe it’s the creepy stoicism of the character Jack Reacher. He’s so stoic that he doesn’t shag the blonde attorney who’s almost “asking for it”. No, he shows off his naked torso in a flea-bit motel room, but no sex. That’s great because it adds to the creepiness of the character, and the film doesn’t have to slow down for a crappy love scene moment.

It’s set in Pittsburgh. The only other film I could think of that was set in Pittsburgh was ‘She’s Out Of My League’, so it was sort of interesting watching the street scenes and Riverside Park. It’s refreshing when these things aren’t set in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco. Heck in San Francisco, the car chases always go down that bendy road. In Pittsburgh… who knows what to expect?

What’s Bad About It

It’s pretty dull from start to finish and as lowbrow goes, it is so low it may as well be a beard. It’s tedious fare right down to the usual brutal Russian Mafia type villains. The script is bad, the directing is ordinary, the editing is a bit haphazard, the music is eminently forgettable, the camera work is unnecessarily jagged. Maybe the wardrobe department does a good job because I couldn’t think of much to complain about there.

Tom Cruise is particularly bad in the hand to hand combat scenes. He’s just not fast, he’s stiff-looking and most unconvincing in these moments. It’s getting harder and harder to buy that the UMTCC is a powerful martial arts adept. It was awfully difficult in MI-IV. here, it is so laughably slow you’re begging the DOP to drop the frame rate.

What’s Interesting About It

This is tough. I thought ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ was pretty dull but this thing makes that film look like ‘Inception’.

Oh, I don’t think Tom Cruise did his running thing in this movie.

Building A Career

Rosamund Pike keeps playing these non-descript female leads. It’s like she somehow has no acting persona but being a blank sheet of paper. I don’t know how to crit her acting because I don’t know if she’s doing anything other than learn her lines and keep turning up. But if she’s in a Tom Cruise movie, she must be doing something right. I thought she was about the right speed in ‘Johnny English Reborn’, and a little too bland in ‘Wrath of the Titans’ so I’m sort of surprised she’s in a Tom Cruise vehicle.

She must be doing something right.

Power Of Casting – Part 100

I had a thought – because I’m still a fan – that Steven Seagal, even in his bloated old age would’ve been a better choice to play Jack Reacher. You’d almost believe the cheesiness if it’s couched in the vernacular of a Steven Seagal movie. Now, the UMTCC is a serviceable character in the context of a legal drama or a run of the mill science fiction movie, but he’s just not convincing as a lethal assassin or a martial arts combatant. Seagal on the other hand can lay no claims to acting laurels of any kind, but he was at one point a spectacular martial artist. Plus he’s tall, which fits the description of Reacher. Besides which, his screen persona is the right kind of cheese for the cheesy dialogue.

All this is to say there are limits to being able to cast any old A-Lister and shove into the market place. When you cast your mind to it, George Clooney or Brad Pitt or Ashton Kucher or Ryan Gosling could not have played Reacher convincingly either. So it’s interesting to see the limit at which the Hollywood model of shove-a-star-in-it-and-sell breaks down completely.

At the climax, Reacher and the Bad Russian Assassin abandon their guns for a bit of hand-to-hand fighting. With the UMTCC, it’s utterly laughable. With Steven Seagal, you might have just accepted it as the typical mimesis of such a film – but of course, real life sucks and nothing ever works out optimally. As Geoff Murphy was once told, “when they ask you ‘who do you see in this film?’ you’re supposed to say Tom Cruise”. Geoff ended up directing Seagal in ‘Under Siege II’ – and that movie would have totally sucked with the UMTCC instead of Seagal.

The ’70s American Cars Again

It’s a trend of late to feature American cars from the 1970s prominently in the car chase scenes. In this movie, Cruise gets hold of a couple of muscle cars and chases down a modern Audi in a suped-up ’70s Ford. The funny thing is how the Ford is so big and lumbering Cruise seems so small behind the wheel.

I mentioned in my crit for ‘Trouble With the Curve‘ how the ’70s car was used as a kind of character shorthand and metonymy but in this instance the same move fails. this might be because the UMTCC is simply too short; but also because the stoic character of Jack Reacher would (and should) eschew fetishism. In other words, the character as written strongly conflicts with the character as adapted for the screen.

It’s this kind of confusion that hobbles this film.

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