Writer / Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, and Werner Herzog
We follow a Ford Transit as it travels through Pittsburgh into a parking garage across the river from the baseball stadium. The driver (Jai Courtney), in rubber gloves, parks, steps out, puts a quarter in the meter, sets up his sniper’s rifle, and then trains his scope on the river walk. Through the scope we watch as he indiscriminately moves from target to target: a business man sitting on a bench, a woman walking alone, a young lady and child. Then one shot, another, another, another, until five people are dead. The shooter then calmly returns to his vehicle and drives away.
Later that day the police are collecting evidence: the shell casings, video footage of the Transit, the quarter in the meter. At the station all evidence points to an ex-Army sniper by the name of Barr (Joseph Sikora). The police mobilize a SWAT team that storms his house and brings him into custody. In the interrogation room Dt. Emerson (David Oyelowo) and Prosecutor Rodin (Richard Jenkins) offer Barr two choices: life in prison or the death penalty. When given the confession to sign he scrawls in large letters, “Get Jack Reacher”.
Reacher (Tom Cruise) is an off-the-grid former Army detective. After hearing about Barr’s involvement in the shootings through a news cast, He takes a bus to Pittsburgh. By the time he arrives Barr has been hospitalized and in a coma after being assaulted by prisoners while under police custody. We also discover Barr is being defended by Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike)–the prosecutors daughter.
Being a Tom Cruise movie based on a successful multi-book character that should normally open in summer, my expectations for the film were not high since it was unceremoniously dumped for a wide release in January with almost no publicity. Happily, said low expectations were exceeded–if minimally.
Jack Reacher is a movie that screams Popcorn Flick, but due to a poor story and/or editing it misses the mark. The film is an erratic effort of hits and misses. A clichéd scenario where one character states something to the effect of you don’t find Reacher, Reacher finds you is immediately followed by a cop entering the room announcing there Jack Reacher is outside looking for you. But then this same movie gives you a well scripted scene of Reacher being setup as a fall-guy at a bar he is eating dinner at that is both humorous and suspenseful. Key character motivations are revealed with cryptic dialogue that is never explained–almost as if they were left on the cutting-room floor.
Where the movie does excel at is in the action sequences. The car chase near the end of the film is well shot, believable, and action packed. The final showdown never crosses the line into complete fantasy about how much damage one man can do. In the end Reacher knows he needs help and he asks for it.
The acting is also very good. Cruise channels Vincent from Collateral and is very believable as the hardened Army investigator. Jai Courtney as the principal heavy is Cruise’s match; both conveying the characters menace & skill, but also showing his youth. The weakest link is Rosamund Pike as Helen Pike. A stronger actress may have brought more life to the underwritten character, but she was not that actress.
In the end Jack Reacher is a rental, but probably one you’ll forget to rent.
Grade = C