December 22, 2012 1 Comment
Jack Reacher (2012)
Written & Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney.
Jack Reacher is a strange hybrid of film that tries (key word: tries) to combine comedy, violence, and that slightly cheesy sensibility to action from the 80s. Clearly it’s a film in search of a franchise, but , given the cold reaction from the audience I watched it with, I do wonder whether it’ll actually ever go beyond this rather average and lazy exercise.
The film is written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the same man behind the script of The Usual Suspect: that was enough to set the bar of my expectations pretty high. Also, Tom Cruise‘s name attached to anything of this caliber, may not be a guarantee of a perfect product, but, whether you like him or not, is usually a mark of at least high standards, and, in worse case scenario, it will at least be good fun and entertaining (see the various Mission Impossible). Unfortunately this time my expectations were about to be crashed.
The film starts off with what was probably the best scene in the whole movie: an incredibly tense and prolonged shot seen though a sniper’s viewfinder. Slowly and mercilessly the unseen killer starts shooting at his victims by picking what looks like innocent people walking by in park. It’s a brutal, agonising and very effective opening, that had me on the edge of my seat from the word go. Sadly the film never reached those heights and eventually, nor McQuarrie or Cruise could save it from ending up being a rather forgettable affair: an average, pretty generic and ultimately pretty silly experience.
The film struggles to decide what it wants to be and looses its way several times before it reaches the rather predictable and underwhelming finale. Its biggest problem is that it never seems to get the tone right: the violence is sometimes disturbing, other times just feels like a parody of a Schwarzenegger film (which by itself wouldn’t be a bad thing, but here the film actually takes itself quite seriously). The most misjudged moment, in terms of its violence is a scene where a girl is beaten up, which sits very uncomfortably with the rest of the film.
As far as Cruise is concerned (and here I should probably confess, I usually like the guy), he seems to me totally miscast. Never mind the fact in the book the character of Jack Reacher is described as blonde, ugly, 6’5” and 250 lbs), but here in the film, he feels like he’s been written with somebody else in mind, possibly even one of those guys from Stallone’s “Expendables”. It almost feels as if Cruise was called in at the last moment and on the top of that, was even allowed to do what he usually does best. The result is a character that never quite rings true. Reacher is supposed to be this brutal, tough, rough, mysterious, cool, always on the run character… Cruise brings too much with his for this part, he’s too charismatic, if you like, too cocky, and ultimately I was never convinced about his character, I couldn’t really get into him, understand him and by the time the movie ended I was left knowing as little about him as when the film started… and most crucially I didn’t really care.
It wasn’t all Cruise’s fault. The script was pretty weak too. Generally speaking the dialogue was dreadful, full of clichés and simply idiotic: lines like “You can’t protect me. No one can”, or “I had to eat my own fingers” are just at the extreme of the spectrum
The film also makes a crucial mistake right from the beginning when it shows the audience who the killer is a good hour before Reacher himself finds out. It is a Hitchcockian trick I suppose, the difference between suspense and mystery. It is supposed to be putting the audience ahead of the main character, thus adding an extra edge to the journey, except that in this case, it makes the whole first half of the film rather dull to watch and plays against it and makes it all a lot interesting.
Not even the arguably hilarious appearance of Werner Herzog as the ultimate baddie can save the film, in fact I actually thought it dragged it even further down into total ludicrousness. His character, may be quite enjoyable to watch, but he is so over the top that it undermines all that gritty and violent realism seen in the intro. Once again it’s another example of the film pulling in too many different directions and not being able to decide what it wants to be: a comedy or a hard-hitting violent crime movie? Trying to do both did not work for me at all.
Obviously, somebody may argue that we are not meant to be taking any of that too seriously… Well, if that was the case I’d go along with it, but then you get scenes like a weird melancholic montage sequence showing you the lives of the victims who have been killed in the beginning, and how their next-of-kins are reacting to their death. By itself that is quite a beautiful sequence (if rather manipulative), but again, does it really belong in a movie with so many borderline-absurd one-liners and Herzog playing the ultimate 007-type villain?
This is all just plain stupid, grass and rather ordinary: not even an apparent slick direction and an A-star cast can save it.