Jack Reacher – Well Directed, but Ultimately Stupid

I’m not sure if I really have anything else to say about it.

Oh well, can’t resist. This film is a bizarre combination of The Firm (Tom Cruise, lawyers, obviously based on a novel) and Mission: Impossible (Tom Cruise, conspiracies, improbable action, hero is unbelievably good at everything), with a healthy does of some non-Tom Cruise projects like James Bond (girls swoon uncontrollably at the hero), Jason Bourne (super tough ex-military loner), Sherlock Holmes (an unbelievably skilled detective who is miles ahead of everyone else), and some Schwarzenegger / Seagal films (a climax that involves nothing more than the hero killing his way up a ladder of bad guys with little apparent physical effort).

It’s a pretty gruesome movie as well, with some very unpleasant violence – both innocent victims and bad guys (including one who is randomly asked to chew off his own fingers, and fails).  The movie tries for a bit to subvert this by having a lawyer defending a crazed sniper have to get close to the families of the victims to discover them as real people, which gives the audience a chance to have our heartstrings pulled.  But fortunately, we’re allowed to get past those unpleasant feelings by having more scenes of Jack Reacher (as that is his name) beating the living tar out of some low-life scum.  This is all on the backdrop of what starts off as an engaging mystery but falls flat when it employs a plot device I’d seen in Agatha Christie works at least once:  random victims are used to disguise the one true one (who sadly turns out to be the most boring one as well.)

There’s a bunch of other stupid things as well:  they go to this extensive length to hide their murder in order to fool the police, who it turns out they control anyway.  They also frame Jack Reacher of another murder so he can get chased by the police (who they are already controlling) and then for some reason follow him around as well, so we have this particularly bizarre and boring chase scene of police chasing hero chasing villain.  Robert Duvall then shows up in the last act as this crazy veteran who runs a firing range and seem to actually recognizes Jack Reacher by the way he fires a high-powered rifle.

Anyway, that’s about it.  Tom Cruise does do action-acting about as well as anyone, and some of the visual storytelling (by director Christopher McQuarrie), especially at the start, is pretty good.  But the story is weak and the characters pretty shallow.  But if you’re in trouble, and people are treating you cruelly, you can take hope in knowing that Jack Reacher is out there, and he doesn’t care about law, or rules, or whatever – he only cares about doing what’s right.

And in this case, that means beating bad guys’ heads against the pavement.

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