The runtime says a great deal about a movie. A ninety minute action movie is going to be fun or so stupid you can’t watch it without feeling guilty. If your action movie is over two hours, it’s either a solid plot or too much action to stomach. Jack Reacher (2012), based on the book One Shot by Lee Child, comes in at 2 hours and 10 minutes as written/directed by Christopher McQuarrie. There is less action than you might expect from the trailer. There’s a lot of talking and Tom Cruise intimidating people with his great, imposing form. I’d like Tom Cruise to go up against Liam Neeson one day.
A sniper shoots and kills five random people in Pittsburgh and Ray Barr (Joseph Sikora) is quickly found to be the culprit. But Barr doesn’t look like the guy we saw taking aim (Jai Courtney). Barr asks for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) looks him up and sees that Reacher is a ghost. He was an Army M.P. with many commendations but absolutely off the grid. But when Reacher sees Barr on TV, Reacher comes looking for him. Not much to find, though, since Barr is in a coma and his lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) and daughter to the District Attorney (Richard Jenkins), is there to defend him. Turns out, though, that she needs Reacher to investigate this thing, which brings him across a super creepy Russian fella (Werner Herzog) and a super sweet old sniper fella (Robert Duvall).
The dialogue is what surprised and delighted me the most. Jack Reacher is filled with one-liners. Mostly, they’re relatively simple puns playing off the back of the line that preceded it. Ex. “I’m Sandy.” “So was I, last week. On a beach in Florida.” It’s that kind of classic noirism that makes me giggle. They are a bit odd coming out of Tom Cruise’s mouth because he isn’t usually a wise-cracker. And yet he gets all the wise to crack when everyone around him is basically functional. Well, except for Robert Duvall who is old and therefore gets a few scraps. Oh, and I remember that Oyelowo gets the best line in the movie which I shan’t ruin for you.
Perhaps I should have warned you first, this is a movie worth watching—the kind of fun that doesn’t make you feel dirty. This is a mystery with action thrills. There’s a bit of piecing together to get the story straight, but done in such a way that if they’d run around in a circle for three days and ran into the bad guys, about as much would have been accomplished. Well, less people would have been killed, probably. So, the movie is just going to be for fun, it’s not something you’ll ever see on a revival night of cult classics. This is like Lethal Weapon 2 (1989).
It looked good (Caleb Deschanel) without going over the top. It had car chases that were tastefully done. I remember seeing Emerson driving over a median with police cars behind him and enjoying the fact that they did a full chase scene. Spared no expense. And yet it was personal enough to not overwhelm. Like I said, it’s a mystery and there’s a lot of walking around and chatting. But there isn’t much of a style when it comes to slow-moving action.
The acting is mostly okay. Tom Cruise is always the way he is and that’s usually a good thing. Perhaps it’s because one is usually on the look-out of false behavior from him, but there was one bit that stood out as particularly robotic. Duvall plays an old sniper and Cruise is this guy who has no friends and only cares about what’s right, but whenever the two share a scene, Cruise always looks like he’s being photographed with someone he should respect. It’s a smile and slight bow of reverence while looking a bit too forced and a bit falsely modest. As for Ms. Pike, she has a perpetual “wtf” face the whole time with her eyes wide open like someone’s sticking an ice cube up her ass. They (Cruise and Pike) couldn’t get together for the story to have any integrity, so it just had to rely on innuendo and a lot of cleavage. Duvall was fun and the rest are functional. Jenkins, because he’s so often great, was disappointing as a mere ambiguous suspect. And what the hell was Herzog doing in this movie?
Calling the movie “Jack Reacher” was a pretty significant mistake, I think. Now they’re going to have to call the next one “Jack Reacher 2”. I mean, what if they called it “Jack Ryan”? They’d have been locked into Alec Baldwin and then they’d have to call the prequel something and how silly would they feel then? Huh? Huh? Pretty damn silly, that’s what. It’s out and available. I saw it on DVD and did not feel the want of a Blu-Ray.