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3 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Jack Reacher
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Grisly Man"
3 stars

Back in the glory days of "Mad Magazine," there used to be a regular feature entitled "Scenes We'd Like To See" that mercilessly but affectionately skewered all off the generic cinematic conventions that had been so overused throughout the years that they barely even registered as cliches anymore. Watching "Jack Reacher," i began to get a sneaking suspicion that it was a film made by fans of those articles. On the one hand, it is your standard-issue lunkhead action thriller filled with implausible characters and endless fights, chases and explosions in the service of the kind of laughably incoherent story where you spend three-quarters of the running time trying to figure out what the hell is going on and the remaining quarter trying to recall why you cared in the first place. On the other hand, it also feels at times as though it knows exactly what it is and isn't above poking fun at itself amidst all the other silliness on display. I can't say that this aura of self-awareness is enough to justify the film's existence but it does make for a slightly more agreeable moviegoing experience than one might expect, especially in conjunction with one of the more amusingly insane casting decisions that I can easily recall.

Set in Pittsburgh, the film opens--in a sequence that is likely to go down a lot harder with audiences than it might have had it come out a week or two earlier--with a man pulling into a parking lot overlooking a public plaza, taking out a sniper rifle and killing five random people (including a nanny frantically trying to carry her young charge to safety) with only six shots before making what appears to be a clean getaway. However, he leaves a few clues behind and before long, ex-military sniper Barr (Joseph Sikora) is arrested for the murders. District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) and his assistant, Emerson (David Oyelowo) have such an airtight case against him that the only deal they offer him is whether he wants to spend life in prison or proceed immediately to the as chamber. Barr's only response is to write out the enigmatic demand ""Get Jack Reacher" but before he can explain much to them or to his own public defender, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike)--who just happens to be the D.A.'s estranged daughter, no less--but before he can explain any further, if only to assure them that "Jack Reacher" is a person and not a device sold in one of <i>those</i> stores, he is beaten into a coma by his fellow inmates.

"Who is Jack Reacher?," you might ask--and you might as well since virtually everyone else in the cast does so at least once. Reacher (Tom Cruise) is an ex-military investigator who now lives off the grid and drifts from city to city in order to right wrongs and, based on the evidence seen here, catch the eye of literally every woman that in comes into contact with. In fact, he not only knows who Barr is but knows that the guy is guilty of committing an atrocity during his final days in combat for which he managed to escape prosecution. When Reacher arrives unannounced in Pittsburgh, it is with the hope of burying Barr once and for all but once he begins to investigate the evidence, something about it just doesn't add up; the shooting was too good for his abilities (even his one miss left behind a perfectly preserved and traceable bullet), the victims were too random and why would a guy about to shoot up a plaza and flee take the time to feed the meter? Something is clearly up and that, along with a couple of misfired attempts to scare him off, lead Reacher to believe that Barr is a patsy and with the help of Helen and a heavily armed and quite avuncular old coot (Robert Duvall), he sets off to discover who and why and this eventually leads him onto the trail of a fingerless fiend known only as "The Zec" and who is played by none other than Werner Herzog.

Yes, Werner Herzog, the celebrated creator of some of the most singular cinematic experiences of our time and a man whose oddball musings have helped to make him a cult figure to boot in recent years, has been cast as the chief bad guy in a jumbo-sized Tom Cruise action blockbuster/prospective tentpole. I have no idea what impulse seized writer-director Christopher McQuarrie to make the leap to bring Herzog into the fold but it was a pretty inspired one indeed. Granted, the role asks little more of an actor than to stand in the shadows and make the occasional enigmatic comment about the past horrors he has endured and the future ones he hopes to inflict. None of this is particularly original but Herzog's undeniable off-center presence and distinctive voice livens things up considerably and adds an amusing spin to material that would have just come across as boring boilerplate in the hands of a typical actor playing a typical Euro-villain. Beyond the casting of Herzog, there are many of other moments scattered throughout in which the dialogue acknowledges the ridiculousness of what is going on even before the smart-asses in the audiences can hurl their snarky invective. (One of my favorite such moments comes when Reacher learns that the D.A. and the defense attorney are related and incredulously asks the same thing we are--"Is that even legal?") This added layer of self-awareness is not a constant throughout--this isn't the action film equivalent of "Scream"--but it does prove to be a nice distraction for the most part.

The only problem is that this stuff doesn't prove to be enough of a distraction from the inescapable fact that the film as a whole is ridiculously implausible even by the standards of the pulp fiction adventures that it is meant to evoke. The film is based on the novel "One Shot," one in a series of best-selling Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child--the kind of books that you see people reading on airplanes in which the narrative complexity is kept to a minimum but everything is told at enough of a breakneck pace to distract readers from the distinct possibility that their plane is about to go down. I have not personally read any of the Reacher novels--one of the more enviable by-products of a near-crippling fear of flying--but I have read books of its type before, including the adventures of such stalwart he-men as Doc Savage, Remo Williams and the immortal Dirk Pitt, and however successful their adventures may be on the page, their unvarnished goofiness can be toned down as need be when appearing only in the mind's eye. Blowing up to fit the contours of the big screen, their simple black-and-white dramatics can't help but look kind of silly. In the case of "Jack Reacher," that problem is compounded by the fact that while it is easy enough too tell the good guys from the bad guys, it is almost impossible for a good chunk of the running time to understand what in the hell the latter are trying to achieve. And without getting into spoiler territory regarding their ultimate goal, let me simply say that. . .nah, best to let you discover it on your own because, if I understand it correctly, their plan is such nonsense that many of you would just naturally assuming that I was kidding. And while it probably won't make much of a difference to fans of the books, the reconfiguration of the character from an ultra-intimidating 6'5" behemoth into the somewhat more compact Cruise is a bit disconcerting and the film's continued insistence on passing him off as some kind of instantly terrifying ass-kicker eventually begins to feel more like wishful

thinking than anything else. "Jack Reacher" is no disaster by any means and if you can get past the story problems, it is well-produced and exciting enough to satisfy anyone who is simply looking for a straightforward meat-and-potatoes action film with just enough off-beat humor to keep others at least moderately interested for a while as well. However, it just lacks that final bit of inspiration that might have taken it over the top in the manner of such far more interesting action spectacles of recent vintage as "Looper," "Skyfall" or even Cruise's own better-than-expected franchise reboot "Mission Impossible:: Ghost Protocol." Those films delivered the expected goods but also put enough thought into their stories to keep viewers intrigued and excited in between all the fireballs and whatnot. "Jack Reacher" tries--and this may be one of those films where the sequel turns out to be better than the original once all the kinks are worked out--but in the end, much like its hero, it can't help but come up a little short by comparison.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23558&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/20/12 21:57:28
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User Comments

5/17/18 Anne so boring liked New orleans pics 2 stars
8/09/13 Jeff Wilder Entertaining in spots. But Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. 2 stars
6/07/13 Carol S Good Action Film, but nothing to watch over and over. 3 stars
5/20/13 kevin lause Better than I expected. Crusie is energetic as usual. 3 stars
5/17/13 mr.mike Cruise manages the part , but movie is fair at best. 3 stars
5/08/13 allyson becker decent movie, would not see again 4 stars
5/07/13 action movie fan good somewhat suspensful but overlong familiar who dont it 3 stars
4/20/13 Langano Not Bad 3 stars
1/06/13 The Big D Not a bad action film, but it would have been much better with Charles Bronson as Reacher! 3 stars
12/26/12 Monday Morning Pretty good detective story with unneeded car chase and gun battle scenes. 4 stars
12/25/12 Flipsider Feels overlong and silly, but has it's moments 3 stars
12/23/12 Koitus Compared to the other carp at the movies these days, you could do worse! 4 stars
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  21-Dec-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-May-2013

  N/A (12A)

  DVD: 07-May-2013

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