Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jack Reacher Review

To be completely honest, Jack Reacher wasn’t really on my radar till very recently.  Granted, I had been seeing trailers for a few months but they didn’t make that much of an impression on me – I actually thought this was being released in the spring.  Going into the film I didn’t really have any expectations; Reacher looked to me like a run-of-the-mill action/revenge film with Tom Cruise as the title character.  While the latter is very true, the former wasn’t exactly as I had thought. 

The film opens with one of the most chilling, intense scenes of any film I’ve seen this year.  A man parks his white van in a parking garage, puts a quarter in the meter and sets up his sniper rifle on the edge of the garage.  Minding their own business, across the river (the film is set in my favorite city, Pittsburgh), are myriad pedestrians.  Five of whom this sniper will take out cold-bloodedly.  How this scene is shot and edited is incredibly intense; the zoomed-in view of the scope is superimposed onto the normal background so that we’re able to see him scoping about, picking targets, close-up, while the rest of the scenery is in a normal view.

This fantastic cold open sets up what can best be described as a big-budget, action-infused episode of Law & Order.  An Iraq War veteran is framed for the murder and asks for Jack Reacher.  Then he’s beaten into a coma.  Cruise plays the mysterious Reacher, a former MP (military police) who was in charge of investigating murders/crimes during the Iraq War.  He’s basically any detective from any crime show, with the exception that he’s a complete badass.  Reacher shows up (after seeing the shooting on the news) and essentially takes over the investigation from assistant district attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike).  The film deals with his investigation and the overall conspiracy at work.

I really enjoyed the investigative angle to Jack Reacher.  There are plenty of action sequences where Cruise demolishes many thugs that will appease the action junkie inside all of us (including one of the best car-chase sequences I’ve seen in a long time), but my favorite moments come from Cruise studying evidence and slowly piecing together the puzzle.  We’re putting it all together at the same time that Helen is.  The revelations about the conspiracy at play feels earned and well-seeded throughout the film.  Eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot clues and little details here and there to help piece it all together.

Up to this point I’ve said nothing but good things about Reacher and that’s because the positives more than outweigh the negatives (of which there are a few).  The dialogue in the film, for the most part, is pretty decent, but there are a few instances of just plain awful writing.  There’s one line about someone getting beat so hard you “couldn’t tell a fart from a burp” or something like that.  It has got to be one of the worst lines of dialogue I’ve ever heard (outside of anyone saying “I love you” in Twilight).  There are smatterings of this incredibly cheesy dialogue peppered throughout the film.  Cruise has a fairly long monologue that he delivers to Helen that had me utterly confused.  I had literally no idea what he was talking about.

The villains of the film, Jai Courtney’s Charlie and Werner Hertzog’s "The Zec", were a bit one-note and one-dimensional (if not incredibly entertaining).  We don’t get much information at all regarding these two and their overall plan; The Zec is the big bad who stands in the shadows, pulling the strings, and outside of a fantastic intro, doesn’t do all that much.  He just stands or sits looking menacing.  Charlie is the muscle of the film; the direct foil to Reacher.  I thought he put in a good performance (along with Hertzog) but there really wasn’t much of a character there.

Jack Reacher will end up somewhere in the middle of my film list this year – it’s not stellar but it’s also not awful.  Despite some fairly weak characters and background-building, Reacher delivers on a thrilling detective story with some incredible action set-pieces that had me on the edge of my seat.  Let’s be honest, we all just want to see Tom Cruise kick tons of ass.  And Reacher delivers on that front in spades.

Jack Reacher is a completely adequate action-thriller that falls just short of greatness.

The Bearded Bullet.

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