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Movie Review: Jack Reacher

By Bob Garver

Under normal circumstances, it would obviously be unprofessional for a reviewer to say that they are “not in the mood” for a particular film. After all, it is likely that many viewers are in the opposite mood, and they expect the reviewers to be open-minded if not similarly eager. But on this occasion, I must make an exception and say that I was in no mood for “Jack Reacher”. I only say this because I believe that at this time there are many in this country and around the world who share my mood and my attitude toward some of the film’s subject matter.

For the past week, my mind has been preoccupied with the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. My thoughts range from sympathy for the victims and their families to anger toward the monster responsible to ruminations on issues like gun control and media coverage. Impersonal mass murders are a sensitive subject at this time, and “Jack Reacher” opens with a sniper ending the lives of five people for seemingly no reason. By intention, these shootings serve as an emotionally wracking catalyst for the Tom Cruise action vehicle that follows. Unintentionally, they serve as an unnecessarily cruel reminder of the recent horror that was sadly all too real.

Surely there was a debate at the studio as to whether or not to even allow the film’s release in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. Apparently they decided that the shootings in the film were different enough that the audience at large wouldn’t find them inappropriate. I do, but reasonable people may feel otherwise. I am not here to disparage anybody who can forgive the film for its admittedly unanticipated parallels to the real-life atrocities, but I am simply not one of them.

To the movie itself. A sniper (Jai Courtney) kills five people (none of them children, thankfully) and the lone suspect (Joseph Sikora) is quickly taken into custody. The lead investigator (David Oyelowo) thinks he can get a confession in record time, but the suspect instead tells the police to find Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Reacher is a former military investigator who now lives a nomadic life of anonymity. He’s a great detective and a great fighter but he isn’t great at making friends, not that he wants any. Bad guys hate him because he beats them, good guys hate him because he doesn’t play by the rules, women hate him because he breaks their hearts. In other words, he’s another dime-a-dozen supercompetent action hero.

Other key characters include Rosamund Pike as the suspect’s public defender and Reacher’s handler of sorts, Richard Jenkins as her shady district attorney father, Robert Duvall as a grizzled shooting range operator, and best of all, Werner Herzog as a bone-chilling villain. I forget how he fits into the plot exactly, but this otherwise bland film needs his demented charisma in the worst kind of way. Somebody needs to cast him as the next James Bond villain right now.

The most popular controversy surrounding “Jack Reacher” seems to be the casting of the 5’7” Tom Cruise as the 6’5” hero. As if I could blame anybody for wanting Tom Cruise in their movie. Though I will blame Cruise for taking this lousy script where his dialogue mostly consists of soundbytes for the television commercials. It seems like the only time the movie is being sincere is when it’s going through the painful process of detailing the lives of the shooting victims and how those lives have been ruthlessly cut short. This brings me back to the issue that I find most discomforting about the film, the depiction of a shooting massacre so soon after the events in Newtown. I have nothing against people who refuse to let this element ruin the film for them, but for me it’s still too soon.

One and a Half Stars out of Five. 

“Jack Reacher” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and some drug material. Its running time is 130 minutes. 

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu