Who would have thought that Tom Cruise could play a part in a modern day noir-ish movie about a mob-like individual named “The Zec” (Werner Herzog) whose master plan is to take down a company that doesn’t want to sell? Hiring hit snipers, infiltrating the police, and manipulating politicians added superficial depth to this categorized crime-thriller.
The structure of the film reminded me of a film adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel, specifically in the end, when the hero (Cruise) leaves the damsel behind as the clichéd “I gotta leave you behind, now that I saved the world, babe” male dominant ego. I must admit that this ending made me roll my eyes and sigh–not a sigh of desperation, but one of exasperation. Perhaps it was because I enjoy watching strong female characters who don’t rely on male authorities to always protect them. I’m not saying this because I am a female, though I can admit that makes my opinion a bit biased, right? I digress. But much of my thoughts digressed while I watched this film.
The dark scenery reflecting off the rainy ground surrounded many frames of this film. Cruise’s nonchalant attitude possessed Jack Reacher’s persona that added a quality of indifference to the character’s words; but Reacher’s actions communicated another side of indifference, especially when a female attorney, by the name of Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), chooses to defend accused killer James Barr (Joseph Sikora) against her DA father, Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins)–who seeks the death penalty for his own political reasons.
Slowly events unfold as we learn about Reacher’s personality and his past experiences. His army knowledge and investigative skills as a former Military Police Corps officer prompt Barr to request his assistance when he is accused of shooting five people down from a parking structure overlooking a park. Little do the police know that Reacher made a promise to Barr, that if Barr ever did something bad again, Reacher would hunt him down.
Reacher’s stealthy life makes him known as one who is not easily found unless he wants to be. You can imagine attorney Helen Rodin’s surprise when Reacher contacts her to find out why she is defending a known murderer.
Rodin askes Reacher to help her investigate Barr’s case and in return she would show Reacher evidence. Barr agrees only if Rodin objectively visits all of the victims’s family to learn about the people Barr is accused of killing. Reacher later tells Rodin the story of how Barr, during his tour in Iraq, had gone in a killing spree after spending his entire time prepared to fight and never shooting a bullet during his active duty. Reacher tells Barr that because the U.S. Army wanted to put behind the major crimes the victims were also accused of doing, Barr was never prosecuted since those same victims happened to be serial rapists, raping women from the ages of 55 down to 10. Reacher told Rodin that he once vowed to Barr that if he did anything like this again, Barr wouldn’t get away next time.
After finding many inconsistencies with the scene of the crime and Barr’s known behavior, Reacher tells Rodin that Barr was set up. Digging deeper into the investigation, Reacher and Rodin unveil a conspiracy suggesting that the intended victim of the shootings was an owner of a construction company and that other victims were added as a cover up.
Reacher’s bar fight with a group of men and the death of a young woman who admitted to Reacher as helping set up the bar fight revealed that Reacher was being set up by an insider who was leaking information about Reacher’s investigation and whereabouts to a Russian Boss. The Russian Boss, known as Zec the Prisoner, and his gang, with the help of Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), kidnap Rodin and threaten her life if Reacher doesn’t give up.
Reacher takes down the gang with the help of Martin Cash, (Robert Duvall) a former U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant whose gun range was the same one Barr and his friend Charlie (Jai Courtney) used. Reacher and Charlie fight until Reacher kills him. Then Reacher Kills Zec as his way of enacting justice to a man known for evading the law.
Sirens wail as the police flee to the scene, after Rodin calls for their assistance, impelling Reacher and Cash to leave. Before leaving, Reacher knows that Rodin must clear Barr’s name. She tells Reacher that she would do that. When Rodin meets with her client, Barr, for the first time, Barr indicates that he has no recollection of the murders he is accused of; instead, he confirms Reacher’s theory by saying how he would have done it, repeating Reacher’s every word of the theory. For fear of Reacher’s retribution, Barr is willing to accept his punishment for what he isn’t even sure he did.
Cruise’s nonchalant persona creates a character that can appear both strained and overly rehearsed, bordering on unbelievable. Moreover, Cruise’s efforts in making a strong ex-Army skilled individual believable is one that appears incongruous with the image many individuals have in mind when thinking of an ex-military figure. Cruise’s performance, while very acceptable in other films and film franchises, may not have been the appropriate choice for this figure. Setting the casting comment aside, the idea of Cruise returning as Reacher for any sort of sequel is bordering “okay.” Knowing that he was an executive producer for the first Reacher film and most likely plans to continue this role in following Reacher films, I can only hope that the next film will be less predictable by adding more of the “thriller” the first one claimed to have.
Overall, Jack Reacher is a decent film whose echoes of noir imagery reflects a style that would have been better if fully approached. Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes. Would I watch it again, any time soon? Perhaps. I can say that I enjoyed it, but my thoughts digressed too much when watching it. Its slow pick up into any action sequence beyond the first ten minutes slowly revealed that this film’s structure would develop more as a crime scene investigation than as an action-packed thriller as advertised.
★ ★ ★ ★ 4/5 Stars