MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Jack Reacher

JACK REACHER (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Christopher McQuarrie, 2012

Jack Reacher, the new guns-blazing crime movie thriller, starring Tom Cruise as the seemingly invincible title hero, comes out at the worst possible time for a movie with a lot of firearms: in the aftermath of the Newton gun massacre. But it would be an obnoxious and often unlikable show in any case, in any time — just not such an obvious one.

In any case, violence begets box-office, or so Hollywood often seems to believe — and Jack Reacher is an almost ridiculously violent movie,  so ridiculous that if  writer-director Christopher McQuarrie had dreamed up better jokes, and more of them, he might have had one hell of a comedy. Based on “One Shot,“ one of a series of  crime novels by Lee Child about Reacher,  a 6’5’’ behemoth of an ex-military dude who lives under the radar, and emerges to solve crimes maybe just for the hell of it (or, in this case, to prove he was right in a previous case), the movie stars Tom in a role more appropriate for Liam Neeson  or Dwayne Johnson, The Artist Previously Known as The Rock. Except why should Neeson have to play  every 6’5” behemoth kicking the ass off dozens of bad guys and tearing apart another city? (Pittsburgh in this case.)

The movie starts with a bang — five or six bangs actually, as a sniper blasts five strangers from a parking lot across from Pittsburgh‘s baseball stadium. When the wrong sniper (Joseph Sikora as Bart) is arrested for this crime, he calls out for Reacher (who arrested him for another shooting during the Iraq War), and goes into a coma, Reacher shows up anyway, convinced that Bart is guilty,  and offers his investigative services to Bart’s attractive lawyer Helen Rodin, great great grand-daughter of the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The talented Helen put herself through Stanford law school by sculpting and mass-marketing statues of  Arnold Schwarzenegger, thinking.

No, sorry. I meant to say that Helen is the daughter of the famous Pittsburgh D.A. “Rody” Rodin (Richard Jenkins).  Rodin is prosecuting Bart, and other mysterious characters are involved in some kind of conspiracy which will be revealed later. At that time, we will meet, to our astonishment,  a cold, glassy-eyed maniac of a crime and business czar named the Zec, played by the great German filmmaker Werner Herzog —  director, in better times, of Even Dwarfs Started Small, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, and The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser, or Every Man for Himself and God Against All. In this movie, the Zec earned his rep by chewing off the tops of his fingers to prevent death by frostbite and gangrene in Siberia (or somewhere like it) — which sounds like a scene in a Herzog movie, and probably tasted worse than the shoe Herzog had to eat after losing a bet to Errol Morris about Errol making his first movie. (Is that any less preposterous than the Rodin story?)

There’s also a car-chase — the old-fashioned, non-digital kind — and several fights, one in a parking lot, often with guns. And, at the end, Robert Duvall shows up as Cash, a salty old Marine and jocular gun salesman, who gets in on the fight just for the hell of it — or so it appeared.

I didn’t like the movie very much, and not necessarily because of the heinous massacre in Newtown that preceded it. It’s just not a very good movie, even though, to their credit, the filmmakers try almost everything. Cruise takes his shirt off (and Pike complains). McQuarrie, who  wrote very good, sharp, stylized  dialogue for The Usual Suspects, seems to have decided to crank out stylized mediocre dialogue for a while, and who can blame him?  Cruise plays Jack with a lot of charisma but no patented Cruise smiles — and who can blame him? He also tries hard to play 6’5″, but only manages 5’10,” perhaps because Herzog forgot to bring along his dwarfs.

There’s no denying that Jack Reacher is filmed fairly well, which means fast and slick. (Caleb Deschanel, who shot The Black Stallion, was the cinematographer.) There’s a lot of shooting and a lot of so-called funny macho lines, few of them very convincing or very funny. At the end, just for the hell of it, Zec’s sadistic henchman, Charlie (Jai Courtney) throw away their guns and go at it hand to hand, after which everybody picks up their guns again.

Anyway, Child has written  seventeen of these Reacher books, of which I have now resolved, as a result of watching this picture,  not to read any. If I break this vow, I will eat one of his books, or at least a corner of one of the pages, if Werner Herzog will agree to eat his other shoe. I wish I could resolve not to see any more movies made from Lee Child novels, but that’s part of my gig. You think I just do this for the hell of it?

 

\

5 Responses to “Wilmington on Movies: Jack Reacher”

  1. Luke says:

    Terrible writing. Reacher was a good flick. After reading your article it was obvious the movie was too intelligent for you. Try doing reviews for magic mike or other Channing tatum films you masterbate too.

  2. miguel Z says:

    Yet you praised the trivializing grotesquerie of Django Unchained. Reacher has interesting things to say about how events are constructed for the public. I can’t see how McQuarrie is made out to be so inept while other more famous celeb directors such as tarantino can do nothing less than create masterpieces for those in the critics establishment. Is there a contractual deal for no one but Armond White to think individually among movie writers?

  3. katie says:

    Being a big fan of Jack Reacher books I have to say that I was surprised at how well Tom Cruise pulled it off. Action packed and violent, but verylittle gore. Books are definitely better but I give the movie an A.

  4. Karina Ve says:

    The movie is NOT the book; and Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. The plot of One Shot (and key characters) went missing from the opening scene and the gratuitous violence/car chase added in was an additional turn off. As much as I love the books (and Jack) I hated the movie. As a Reacher book addict, this movie was a travesty.

  5. Mary Pepper says:

    I agree that this movie is a travesty. The Jack Reacher series is well written and thought provoking which this film is not. I read several hundred books a year and know a well written book when I read it. I also know that I hate Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. UGH! I certainly hope they don’t consider Tom Cruise for another Reacher role again. It is a shame that you have not read any of his novels….

Leave a Reply

Wilmington

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas