While watching “Jack Reacher”, I thought of one tagline very suitable for the movie: “Don’t find him – He’ll find you.” This one is so conventional that it can be used in any other action thriller films featuring tough guy hero who takes care of his matter for himself no matter how perilous his situation is, and that tells a lot about “Jack Reacher”, which has nothing to distinguish itself from its fellow macho movies except its few nice goodies I appreciated while not bored by it at the local theater.
The movie starts with a shocking incident which can be descried as a ‘locked case mystery’ where everything in the case is clearly pointing to one suspect. An ex-military guy is arrested for randomly shooting five innocent civilians under broad daylight, and the evidences are literally ready for the detective Emerson(David Oyelowo) and the district attorney Alex Rodin(Richard Jenkins) when they keep him in the custody. Besides an incriminating fingerprint found at the crime scene, they have the other strong evidences against him, and Rodin is very determined to get this guy executed – or incarcerated for the rest of his life if he admits his guilt.
The suspect, named James Barr(Joseph Sikora), is unusually calm considering his grim circumstance. While not saying anything about the case, he silently demands only one thing: get Jack Reacher(Tom Cruise). Reacher, a former US Army Military Police Corps officer with impressive military record who has been leading a lone reclusive lifestyle since he returned to US years ago, immediately goes to see Bar as soon as he hears the news about the incident, but, when he appears in front of Emerson and Rodin, Barr is unfortunately in coma due to the severe beating by his fellow inmates.
Reacher is rather baffled by Barr’s demand. Due to a similar incident in Barr’s past investigated by him, he knows too well that Bar is capable of such a cruel shooting as a trained sniper. He does not have much doubt about Barr’s guilt, and neither does Helen Rodin(Rosamund Pike), Barr’s defense lawyer who is also, yes, Rodin’s daughter. She clearly knows that her case is hopeless, but at least she tries to get any chance to save her client from death penalty while in conflict with her father, who has manipulated the legal system for the advance in his career.
Although he does not like Barr for what he committed in the past, Reacher looks on the case after being persuaded by Helen. Not so surprisingly, he begins to discern the suspicious things here and there in the case, and, naturally, we get those familiar sights from many thriller movies. First, we have several guys ‘surreptitiously’ watching on Reacher(he is quite a watchful guy, you know), and you will not be surprised to see Reacher show his hardcore toughness to the thugs who unwisely try to mess with him as his suspicion on the case becomes more solidified. Personally, I do not think I can spoil your entertainment by saying that there is an insidious figure behind everything.
The plot is pretty predictable like that while it is riddled with many holes in it, but the director/screenplay writer Christopher McQuarrie makes a competent and smooth product with several enjoyable things. Its central chase sequence on the urban streets is handled well with a dry, efficient approach reminiscent of the action films made during the 1970s while the absence of music on the soundtrack makes it feel more effective and intense, and I was amused a bit by how Reacher uses his car as he dashes into the bad guys ready to shoot him in the open space during the climax part.
The movie is based on “One Shot”, the ninth book of the series written by Lee Child. I have not read any book in the series, but Tom Cruise does not look bad as a reticent tough guy although I heard that the original Jack Reacher looks a lot different from him as a taller and stockier guy. Reacher is not just a tough guy but a smart tough guy who can outsmart his opponents, and I liked how he investigates the case through his keen observation on several trivial things including the manufacture year of a certain coin as he does not reveal his thoughts much to the people around him.
The supporting performers around Cruise mostly play stock characters we are familiar with. I do not complain about the lack of sparks between Cruise and her because the relationship between their characters are strictly business throughout the story, but Rosamund Pike does not have many things to do in her bland role, and neither do Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo, who mainly function as the characters Helen cannot wholly trust according to the Law of Economy of Characters. Robert Duvall is an old codger who gets involved with Reacher later in the story due to the reason I will not discuss about, and Jai Courtney, whom we will soon meet again in the latest Die Hard sequel, is adequately lethal as the main henchman, and Werner Herzog is the man behind Courtney’s character. Herzog always draws our attention with his uncanny presence and that odd German accent even though he usually sits or stands in the corners during his scenes, and he has a chilly moment when his character talks about how he survived at a Siberian prison camp.
“Jack Reacher” is not awful to watch, but it is more or less than a passable entertainment which will not impress you much, and you will not remember it much in the next morning after watching it. I will not deny that this is a well-made film and I had some amusement with its good elements, but it is a little too bland and predictable in my opinion compared to the other good films in its genre. I recently heard that there will probably not be the following sequels due to its disappointing result at the US box office and I do not feel particularly sorry about that news, but, considering good potentials inside the movie, I wonder whether it was a decision made too hastily.