Louis CK told me to be judicious with “hilarious,” but Jack Reacher was hilaaaaaarious.
It was also ugly, with a prison rape joke in the first stanza of dialogue, but mostly it was hilarious.
Just look how big they ‘Shopped his noggin!
Yes, it was a functional action movie on the level of an above-average James Bond. Well put-together. Capably shot and acted. Densely plotted in a way that makes everything feel clever and agreeable until you start walking home.
But I got beefs. I got beefs like Burger King.
The plot problems are funnier, so let’s get the character stuff out of the way.
I haven’t read any Jack Reacher novels, but the character in this movie is split-personality to the point of actual mental illness. This is no crime. As written, he should spend some scenes as a charming jerk (rebuffing the advances of a woman 30 years his junior) and others as a dead-eyed sociopath (telling a baddie he’s going to “drink [his] blood from a boot.”) No problem. He also gives a few sincere, heartwarming pep talks. Er, all right. Workable. The Lethal Weapon franchise is proof of this.
The Back to the Future school of poster cast accumulation
Alas Tom Cruise plays every scene as “badass.” He’s like the first D&D character a middle school kid rolls up that takes a bonus in Intimidate and never touches Diplomacy or Bluff.
(Rampant spoilers ahead, which shouldn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the movie with the inevitable RiffTrax.)
This choice is boring, and it forbids engagement with the character. The scene with the very young flirting woman, Sandy, has a lot of unmotivated nastiness that would at least land softer if he were smiling through it. Later he shows up at Sandy’s work to find her (she’s conveniently at Reacher’s first guess, just as she conveniently shared her workplace info with a stranger she has been led to believe is a creep). Some Bluff or Diplomacy would go a long way here, but instead he threatens her boss, barges his way in, corners Sandy in an office and menaces her there. For a guy who prizes anonymity, this is pretty stupid.
He also menaces attorney and District Attorney’s offspring Helen (Rosamund Pike). He yanks her around by the arm. So does Helen’s dad(!), the aforementioned DA. Also topless Jack Reacher makes Helen all shuddery with lust (ha ha ha ha). Also super-young Sandy can’t stop hitting on him, even while crying, even after Jack has told her “the [women] you don’t pay for are the ones [he] can’t afford,” because in that scene he talks like Elmore Leonard fanfic. Also Jack asks Sandy why she runs with such a bad crowd, and she says, “That’s just what girls like me do,” which is a thing no one has said ever and is also a brainless answer, like the writer dropped in some temp dialogue and never went back to fix it.
Exposed to bad writing at a tender age
Oh, and later Sandy gets felt up by the camera a little more before getting creeped on by a baddie and then slowly murdered.
So it’s safe to say this movie is a rough watch for the ladies.
You know that rad scene from the trailer? Where Jack slips out of a police chase and into a crowd? And a cool older dude gives him his ballcap? Yeah, there’s no reason for the crowd to do that. His face isn’t famous. They haven’t seen him do anything heroic. There’s no undercurrent of cop corruption that would cause citizens to automatically abet a chased stranger. It poops on the trailer like nine pigeons on a balcony.
HE KILLED FIVE GRANNIES FOR ALL YOU KNOW
So that’s why this movie didn’t connect as an action film.
Here’s why it totally connected as a comedy:
- The inciting incident is that one elite sniper frames another slightly less elite sniper at the behest of a Huge Evil Corporation who wants to disguise one woman’s murder as part of a random mass killing. No, wait! The woman interfered with Huge Evil Corporation’s plan by refusing to sell her business. This resistance is somehow a dealbreaker for HEC’s master plan. So instead of Diplomacy, Bluff or even Intimidate, HEC goes straight to Murder. I hope the woman’s company isn’t inherited by a hardheaded son or daughter, or this family’s next reunion is going to have a skimpy turnout.
- In order to kill this woman, who seems to have made the troubling decision recently, the HEC arranges for an evil elite sniper to befriend a troubled but redeemable elite sniper. This befriending has been going on so long that they’ve taken multiple trips to a remote shooting range together. How does such a friendship begin? “Hello, I see you are also an elite sniper. Do you like Thai food?”
I like shooting dudes in the eye. Do you like shooting dudes in the eye?
- The HEC is evil because it builds pointless things, like “bridges to nowhere” and “highways nobody uses.” They have done this in multiple countries. I don’t understand how this is a working or profitable scheme. Would it not be sufficiently evil if they used muscle to win, like, legitimate contracts? Isn’t a pointless bridge as expensive to build as a useful one? EVIL CORPORATIONS ARE A SILLY THING IN GENERAL.
- I understand it’s hard to marry white-collar crime to wetwork. What you need is some character that occupies both worlds. A Patrick Bateman. A Stringer Bell. Not Werner Herzog as a hyperbolic one-eyed, one-fingered Siberian gulag survivor who doesn’t actually do anything, isn’t connected to the plot in a way I could follow, and turns up for the final shoot-out even though HE DOESN’T DO ANYTHING and he HAS NO FINGERS so he can’t even HOLD A GUN. Why is he here? I think it’s just “look spooky” and “be German,” which he does very well, but oh my God it’s so silly.
I really should not have come to this shootout
- Rosamund Pike pretending to be overwhelmed by Tom Cruise’s topless physique is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a month. It’s just such a young adult novel thing to happen. Tom Cruise is plenty physically fit, but he is 50. Rosamund Pike is 33. There are only three reasons a woman that age would be overwhelmed by carnal feeling for a man his age:
- She is drunk.
- They have formed a deep romantic bond over many weeks and many incremental personal revelations.
- He smells like Cinnabon.
- Someone dressed Rosamund Pike in multiple low-cut shirts. Cleavage is not a crime, but it is a funny fashion choice for a character who should have been dressed like Rose Byrne in Damages. Perhaps Helen prefers stretch fabrics because she gets yanked around by the arm all the time.
This bosom had more screen time than Werner Herzog
- As mentioned previously, Jack Reacher tells a baddie, “I will drink your blood from a boot.” Alas he doesn’t then literally do it, which I believed was the only reason anyone would ever say this. I AM DISAPPOINT.
- Jack Reacher asserts “there’s a bus station three miles away and I can walk there in twenty-four minutes.” I can run an eight-minute mile if I am pushing it and slightly afraid. For funsies, the Olympic racewalk 5K record, set in 1995, is 18 minutes and change. I invite you to imagine Tom Cruise elite racewalking right… now.
This, but in jeans and a leather jacket
(No disrespect to racewalking, where competitors walk faster than I can run on my best day with two cups of coffee and everything, but there is NO WAY this is what Jack Reacher means, which makes it comedy gold to debate what he is asserting.)
- Jack turns a blind corner to outshoot a dude peering through a lock of Helen’s hair. If you were expecting Bluff, Diplomacy or even a shoe mirror to solve that standoff, YOU ARE DISAPPOINT.
- Robert Duvall plays an eighty-year old elite sniper because this movie has elite snipers like my house has loose dog hair. In the final shootout he kills like nine dudes with his own registered rifle. How he is going to deal with the legal fallout of all this remains unclear. If you were hoping for a one-liner about how he is eighty and just needs to drag the trial out a few years, HAVE SOME DISAPPOINT.
Just for fun, I went to Wikipedia and got this description of the books’ Reacher:
Reacher’s demeanor is stoic, and he does not talk much. He has a propensity for saying “that’s for damn sure”. Reacher frequently does not answer when people make statements or ask questions, nodding or shrugging, preferring the other party to fill the silence… Reacher is 6′ 5″ tall (1.96 m) with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds (100–115 kg). He has ice-blue eyes and dirty blond hair. He has very little body fat, and his muscular physique is completely natural (he reveals in Persuader, he has never been an exercise enthusiast).
Ha ha ha ha ha. I will say if this movie starred John Cena as a dude with half the dialogue who pretended not to work out, everything else in the movie would have made total sense.
I will drink your blood from a boot… ladieeees.