Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise misfires in the role of an ultra-hard-boiled investigator.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher crime novels—17 of them so far—are a film franchise waiting to happen. Judging by Jack Reacher, the new Tom Cruise movie, I’d say they’ll have to wait a little longer.

The movie’s central problem is one of casting. Child’s protagonist is a former army major and top military police investigator. He’s a scruffy six-foot-five and weighs 250 pounds, and these are key attributes of the character (he’s a formidable butt-kicker). I’m not a Tom Cruise hater, but I think we can agree that this is not a description of Tom Cruise.

The Reacher of the books is ultra-hard-boiled. He has no job, no fixed address, and no car (he travels around by bus, or just walks). His possessions are minimal (he owns a toothbrush), and he has little interest in snappy dressing (he buys cheap clothes, tosses them when they rumple, and buys some more). He’s also uncommonly taciturn (a constant refrain in the books is, “Reacher said nothing”). This is silly stuff, but in his sturdily constructed novels, Child really makes it work. Cruise tries it all on, but it doesn’t really suit him.

The film’s plot, derived from the author’s 2005 best-seller One Shot, has Reacher arriving in Pittsburgh (by bus) to involve himself in a murder case. An ex-army sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora) is charged with mowing down five innocent people for no reason. Top cop Emerson (David Oyelowo) has assembled enough evidence—a ballistic match with Barr’s rifle, a fingerprint at the scene—to give the local DA (Richard Jenkins) an airtight case. Helen Rodin, the DA’s lawyer daughter, is defending Barr, who has asked for Reacher to be brought in. When he arrives, we learn that Reacher knew Barr in the army, that he investigated another mass shooting of which Barr was definitely guilty, and that he remains righteously angry that Barr escaped justice on a technicality. “I didn’t come here to help him,” Reacher tells Helen. “I came to bury him.”

As he starts nosing around, though, Reacher begins to realize that Barr is not guilty of these latest slayings. His meddling appears to irritate somebody, and one night in a barroom, Reacher is approached by a cute young hussy (Alexia Fast) who sets him up for a parking-lot beating by a gang of muscular friends. Reacher dispatches these lugs without breaking much of a sweat and digs deeper into the case. Soon he flushes a group of Russian thugs led by a mysterious codger called the Zec. This character is played by veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog with a milky dead eye and an unfortunate line in repartee. (Outlining his criminal enterprise, the Zec tells Reacher, “Ve take vhat can be taken. Zis is vhat ve do.”) But then writer-director Christopher McQuarrie has cooked up some ripe lines for Cruise, too. (Addressing one ill-fated thug, he says, “I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot.”)      

The movie is studded with action scenes of a remarkably unenterprising sort: a thoroughly generic car chase, some bang-bang rat-a-tat gunplay. There is one novel moment in which Cruise enters a scene driving a car backward, although I remain unclear about exactly why he does this. Even more curious is the picture’s complete lack of sexy. There’s not even a passing hug, and the likeable Rosamund Pike drifts through most of the proceedings with an expression of open-mouthed incomprehension. In the movie’s funniest shot, we see her conversing with Reacher across a small room, looking lovely but entirely dwarfed by one of Cruise’s shirtless pecs bulging hugely in the foreground of the frame. The picture needed either more of this hoot-worthy sort of thing, or none at all.

The movie doesn’t even seem to be searching for a style that would provide some pulpy context for a character like Jack Reacher. And Cruise, who can of course be a fine actor and is already a well-established action star, is wrong for this role. The film’s ending foreshadows a sequel, but that seems unlikely—it would require a new lead. (The best candidate I’ve heard mentioned is the tall, taciturn Irish actor Ray Stevenson, most recently seen playing a tall, taciturn Ukrainian gang chief on Dexter.) Anyone still interested in turning the Reacher books into a franchise might be best advised to back off for a bit, and then start over.

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  • $park¥||

    Mmmmm, Rosamund Pike...

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Yeah...she...yeah. Yeah.

  • wareagle||

    I've read most of the Reacher books and had the same initial reaction - they chose Cruise to play a guy whom the books take great pains to describe as very imposing physically?

    Like the Bourne movies, this series has a chance but it can't be with Cruise. It needs a guy who fits the physical aspect of Jack Reacher. Surely, there is some large actor with enough talent to pull this off.

    Cruise might work as the protagonist in a Vince Flynn or Brad Thor book-turned-movie, but not this series.

  • ||

    I've read most of the Reacher books and had the same initial reaction - they chose Cruise to play a guy whom the books take great pains to describe as very imposing physically?

    The exact same complaints were leveled when Cruise was cast as Lestat in Interview With a Vampire; namely, that Lestat, as conceived by Anne Rice, was very tall. But once the movie came out, you realized that Cruise is actually a natural fit for the role of a gay vampire.

  • ||

    Surely, there is some large actor with enough talent to pull this off.

    Liev Schreiber?

    Think about it for a minute.

  • ||

    Two words: Adam. Baldwin.

  • ||

    Two words: Adam. Baldwin.

    Isn't he dead or in prison?

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    He am not become Death. Yet

    Not in prison either.

  • ||

    He am not become Death. Yet

    Not in prison either.

    You failed to mask your disappointment.

  • Randian||

    I saw him on Law y Order this year.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Oh, that's your answer to everything.

  • ||

    Goddamn right!

  • Virginian||

    Goddamn Gorram right!

  • Virginian||

    Take two....

    Goddamn Gorram right!

  • ||

    Sheeeitt...I really missed the boat on that!

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    A good alt-text would be, "He's standing on a box"

  • ||

    Tom Cruise comes out with a new film roughly once every three weeks. Quentin Tarantino, about once every three years. This is why a review of Django Unchained would be far more meaningful, Kurt Loder.

  • KL||

    One's on the way. The movie doesn't open till Christmas Day....

  • ||

    One's on the way. The movie doesn't open till Christmas Day....

    Fair enough.

    Early reviews
    are in, and they're very encouraging.

  • Randian||

    Tarantino is one of those guys who I thought made great movies when I was 19-21, but the other day I tried to rewatch Reservoir Dogs and I was bored.

    Anybody else have that problem?

  • ||

    I watched Reservoir Dogs when I was about 22 and thought it was utter crap. I'm pretty sure I would have the same opinion today.

    I liked Pulp Fiction, but mainly because it introduced me to the genius that is Dick Dale.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Kristen, you probably know about Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, as they did the KITH theme song. I linked a different song - their other "hit". Also, JW introduced me to Man or Astroman?

  • ||

    Never hoid of 'em - not bad. Not as hard-driving as ol' Dick, though.

  • JW||

    Dick Dale is the godfadder of surf and deservedly so. Just don't give me any fucking Beach Boys or Jan and Dean.

    Two of my crruent favs:

    The Chebaccas
    Alwaro Negro

  • JW||

    And Dick Dale doing Hava Nigila.

  • JW||

    Needs moar Transmission from Venus, if you want hard rocking.

  • ||

    Try The Penetrators or The Shadows.

  • ||

    Tarantino is one of those guys who I thought made great movies when I was 19-21, but the other day I tried to rewatch Reservoir Dogs and I was bored.

    To me, that was the least of his films. But I do feel that way when I watch Pulp Fiction anymore. I recognize that it's a masterpiece, but for me, the novelty has worn off. I loved the Kill Bill movies (particularly the first one), though I feel Inglorious Basterds was the "best" one so far. I've got high hopes for the new one, especially since they've reprised the role of Col. Hans Landa

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    If I had to re-watch any QT movie for enjoyment, I'd pick either Dogs or Pulp.

    I plan to re-watch Basterds some day, but only as a weird experiment to see if I dislike it as much on second viewing as I did on the first. That movie just got under my skin. In a bad way.

  • Libertarius||

    I read somewhere that Jamie Foxx admitted he loved filming because it was an excuse to kill whitey.

    And I am tired of Tarentino ripping off Sergio Leone. Ennio Morricone is my favorite modern composer and I love to hear his music in Tarentino's films, but the artwork I've seen for Django was ripped straight from that of the Dollar trilogy.

  • ||

    I read somewhere that Jamie Foxx admitted he loved filming because it was an excuse to kill whitey.

    That was during his monologue when he hosted SNL, I believe. I've read too many interviews with him where he's expressed his admiration for white actors and directors to believe that he's some sort of militant racist.

    And I am tired of Tarentino ripping off Sergio Leone. Ennio Morricone is my favorite modern composer and I love to hear his music in Tarentino's films, but the artwork I've seen for Django was ripped straight from that of the Dollar trilogy.

    His movies are an obvious paean to the movies he grew up with; namely Saturday-afternoon king fu theater and spaghetti westerns. Plus he puts enough of his own stamp on them to ensure they're not ripoffs.

  • New West Republic||

    Clive Owen. That is all.

  • wareagle||

    and who would be terribly surprised if it takes a British actor to play the part of ex-US Army MP? Liam Neeson could have gotten away with it, 20 years ago.

  • R C Dean||

    Weird, isn't it, that there aren't any masculine man's-man stars in Hollywood under the age of 40.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Jeff. Fucking. Goldblum.

  • ||

    Too skinny and hipstery, and his delivery is on the stuttery, awkward side. He's beter left for the "sexy nerd" roles.

  • ||

    Too skinny and hipstery, and his delivery is on the stuttery, awkward side. He's beter left for the "sexy nerd" roles.

    Plus he's like 87 years old now, and has always been the last person you could picture operating a firearm.

    So I believe WG was being a tad facetious. ;-)

  • waaminn||

    Dude seems to know what he is talking about. Wow.

    www.Global-Anon.tk

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Well Mr. Loder, it appears you have at least (algorithmic) fan!

  • Randian||

    There is one novel moment in which Cruise enters a scene driving a car backward, although I remain unclear about exactly why he does this.

    For the lulz?

  • Don Mynack||

    This was also an odd choice for a film adaption - it's by far the worst of the Reacher books. It's certainly the most boring one.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    "Child’s protagonist is a former army major and top military police investigator. He’s a scruffy six-foot-five and weighs 250 pounds, and these are key attributes of the character (he’s a formidable butt-kicker). You don’t have to be a Tom Cruise hater to agree that this is not a description of Tom Cruise."

    And a portly, pudgy, english (that is to say, caucasian) somewhat homely country doctor is not a description of Eddie Murphy, either. Still, we have Dr. Dolittle.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, but if Reacher is really bad ass in large part because he's a large guy, that's a plot point that's less dispensable. Ethnicity was incidental to the story of Dr. Dolittle.

  • ||

    And look how well that film turned out...

  • RPR2||

    Tom Cruise? more like Jack Reacharound.

  • ||

    Tom Cruise? more like Jack Reacharound.

    I knew it was inevitable, but I didn't wanna be the first to make the obligatory "reacharound" joke. Seems approriate, though.

  • ||

    Dude, I was going to say that.

  • Tommy_Grand||

    Good review. I will skip the film. I may read the books.

  • James R. Rummel||

    "There is one novel moment in which Cruise enters a scene driving a car backward, although I remain unclear about exactly why he does this. "

    He was driving into a hail of gunfire, and the engine is in the front of the car. Let the bad guys shoot up the trunk while protecting the hood, and the car will go for a much farther distance before damage forces it to stop.

    I was kind of hoping for a scene where a few boulders were lifted into the trunk to provide cover before the wild ride, as the .223 rounds being fired by the bad guys would zip right on through the body of the car without something hard and heavy to stop them. But I suppose we will have to wait until such a time as Hollywood hires me as a consultant for their gunfights. ;)

  • uythsb||

    Merry Christmas,NBA 2012

  • attractions guide||

    I would like to see this if i have enough time.

  • شات عراقنا||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world
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