Film review: JACK REACHER, from Built For Speed

The lengthy right-wing revenge fantasy Jack Reacher brings to the screen the violent antics of a character who has appeared in 17 novels by author Lee Child.

In the title role, Tom Cruise plays a former soldier now drifter who goes from town to town having adventures just like Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk.  In this film he’s called in to assist the obligatory super-hot attorney (Rosamund Pike) in the defence of a former army sniper (Joseph Sikora) accused of gunning down five people.  With powers of deduction that would make Sherlock Holmes feel like a knucklehead, Reacher determines that there’s a lot more to the case than a lone nut gunman.

This is an old school (as in 1990’s) crime thriller. The film centres on a squared-jawed, indestructible tough-guy hero who doesn’t let namby-pamby concepts like the law or morality get in the way of shooting and stomping the brainless bad guys.  The film revels in Reacher’s talent as a killer and his ability to administer Taken-style sadistic violence.   Any resemblance between this film and anything in the real world of policing or the legal world, however, is purely co-incidental.

Anyone going into this film expecting a story of Shakespearean depth and complexity would be kidding themselves. Films like this are designed to provide a bit of intrigue and plenty of skull-crunching violence; on that undemanding level it delivers. The action is mostly exciting and visceral and the inevitable car chase is more thrilling than usual.

Just in case we were thinking that this was a completely conventional action thriller, enter Werner Herzog who plays a weird German villain with a finger biting fetish. Exactly what inspired director Christopher McQuarrie to include Herzog is any body’s guess but he adds a strange and amusing wrinkle to this film

This movie has been shrouded in controversy largely because the opening shooting rampage disturbingly echoes the recent tragic killings in the US and this has led to the film’s release being delayed.  It should be noted, though, that this scene was filmed long before the US killings took place.  There was also outcry about the casting of Tom Cruise as Reacher given that, in the books, Reacher is six foot five and blonde.  Tom Cruise, is however, very effective here as he utilises his on-screen creepiness in the role of a trained killer just as he did in Michael Manne’s Collateral.

Jack Reacher is kind of a stupid film but it contains enough thrills and bone-crunching biffo to satisfy action aficionados, particularly the more sadistic ones.


Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.

Classification: M

Director(s): Christopher McQuarrie

Release date: 3rd Jan 2013

Running time:  130 mins.

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