Crime cop – Jack Reacher review

Jack Reacher – Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, and Werner Herzog. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

Jack Reacher is trash, but since when is that a bad thing? Christopher McQuarrie‘s adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot follows in the footsteps of those convoluted John Grisham and Dan Brown books that are easy to digest and only seem smart if you don’t think about them at all. I partly expected a giant crease to appear halfway through, so apparent are its airport novel roots. McQuarrie knows it, and star Tom Cruise knows it, and, gloriously, Werner Herzog – as the enigmatic, two-fingered villain The Zec – knows it too. This film, like the serviceable texts it was inspired by, is more than capably realised, perfectly distracting, and frequently offers up a wink in our direction, just in case we weren’t sure if we should still be having fun. Sure, it’s not one you’ll carry with you out of the cinema. Some features were meant to live on the screen, and then stay there.

The picture opens with the chilling shooting of five innocents by a mysterious sniper (Jai Courtney) followed by the arrest of troubled war vet James Barr (Joseph Sikora) for the crime. Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) has formed a solid case, and never-lose DA Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) is keen to secure for him a lethal injection. But Barr says nothing in his defence, asking only for them to “Get Jack Reacher.” Emerson and Rodin discover this Reacher (Cruise) can’t be, ahem, reached, unless he wants to be, so ghost-like is this former military cop. Then, the sneaky devil conveniently walks into their office at that precise moment. It’s that kind of movie.

Reacher is no friend of Barr’s, and he shares the boy’s troubled history to his defence attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike). Yes, she’s the DA’s daughter, and no, this never, ever happens in real life. He suspects something fishy is going on, and his detective skills uncover something of a conspiracy, with The Zec at the top. Herzog introduces himself with a monologue in which he explains how he survived Siberian prison by gnawing off his own fingers to save himself from gangrene. For a moment, we wonder what sacrifices we would make to live, how pointless our existence really is, and how cruel nature can be to those of us who never asked to be born in the first place. This was probably why Herzog was hired.

Cruise’s performances are frustratingly ignored while his private life is obsessively pored over. It’s been a little while since he’s taken on a truly intriguing role (Collateral?), yet he’s fantastic in absolute dross (Rock of Ages), while still charming in every big tentpole actioner. He shares something in common with Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis, in that he’s unafraid to look afraid during a high-intensity scene. Although Cruise isn’t asked to climb the Burj Khalifa in Jack Reacher, he does get caught up in a car chase that sees him going the wrong-way down a one-way tunnel. Jack seems to know what he’s doing most of the time; here, he might have found himself in a pickle not even he can squeeze out of, and it shows. His cunning exit, as smooth as his driving was erratic, is a wonderful comic moment.

Rosamund Pike fares worst in the esteemed cast; a shame, as I’ve liked her in previous outings. Seems she’s best suited to dramadies like An Education and Barney’s Version. Herzog, meanwhile, is an absolute delight, albeit an underutilised one. Maybe writer-director McQuarrie thought his iconic voice was best deployed in small doses, but as anyone who has attempted to impersonate him will attest, that is absolutely not the case. Courtney is a suitably intimidating stand-in, even if his final show-down with Cruise feels a bit mismatched in terms of star powers colliding. At least Robert Duvall pops up in the final act to add an extra dash of humour, as a crusty old sniper with a key to unlocking the case.

The action is rather sparse, though the select few sequences are satisfying enough. McQuarrie can’t quite keep his foot on the gas to maintain our interest wholeheartedly throughout. The man has a way with words, however, and even if his flick is dumb, he’s clever enough to have his characters exclaim how ridiculous or peculiar their current situations are. I’m not sure if that’s been carried over from Lee Child’s source material or a new inclusion. Either way, if this should kick off a franchise, there are far worse signatures than a knowing sense of humour. It might just be what’s missing from all those other deathly grim series out there.

3.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Jack Reacher arrives in Australian cinemas January 3, 2013.

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