<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney
Not knowing much about author Lee Child’s books with the same character I went to watch this film – that has so far received mixed reviews – and was pleasantly surprised with some interesting thrills, dark twists and a protagonist who is certainly off-the-beaten-track.
Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop who stays in the shadows, a vigilante vagabond hero who fights for justice in his own witty, sometimes slapstick way. He’s one serious motherfucker too, kindly warning his attackers that they will be seriously injured if they take him on. He’s 6 feet 5 inches tall in the books so it’s no wonder when some of the fans cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war when Tom Cruise (standing in at a modest 5 feet 7 inches) was announced as producer and star. But hey, as an action star, it probably doesn’t get bigger than him and his consistent performances and solid action hero status more than aptly qualifies him for this role. And he does it marvellously.
The movie starts off with a man, who they show us, entering a level building, paying for his car parking, taking out a sniper gun and focusing it on a promenade where business people, nanny’s with their charges and average Joes are getting on with life. And as he pans his gun’s viewfinder across, breathing like a woman about to give birth, you wonder who he’s going to shoot down. And then he fires. And after that he fires another five shots ultimately killing five, seemingly random people. But the coin he has used to pay the parking meter has a fingerprint and the suspect is soon caught: an ex military guy called James Barr (Joseph Sikora) with a history of violent tendencies. All he does is ask for Jack Reacher before some prison inmates mercilessly beat him into a coma.
Needless to say our Jack Reacher who isn’t a fan of this man and would very much like to see him get the death penalty is soon intrigued by the mystery and sets about helping the defence attorney (Rosamund Pike) find out what really happened. Oscar-winning screenwriter and now director Christopher McQuarrie who has previously written the enthralling The Usual Suspects, has taken on the task of converting Lee Child’s book One Shot and has done it in a style and tone very rarely seen or expected for this genre.
First up, the character of Jack Reacher is something out of a novel. He’s quirky, having only one set of clothing; he speaks to a woman in a derogatory but factual tone but then also tries to save her life; he warns the bad guys about how he’s going to beat them up so they can be prepared; he has a photographic memory. Serious and slapstick seem to coexist here and you may wince a bit at a particularly ridiculous fight scene in a bathroom where some goons are trying to bludgeon Jack Reacher to death and end up hitting each other instead. Remember, this isn’t a Hindi film but there are books with characters who are similarly silly and though this may seem out of place in a movie about sniper killings it comes with the territory of the character.
German director Werner Herzog plays The Zec (prisoner), a Russian ex-gulag survivor with a cloudy eye, barely any fingers left on his hands and a disfigured face. Scary enough for you? Unfortunately he doesn’t get much screen time as his henchman played by the hunky Jai Courtney does most of the dirty work. Also, even though we ultimately find out the real target behind the shooting we are never told of why The Zec wanted to achieve this goal, what really was his dark past that has scarred him so much and why at the end his plans were not as fool proof as you’d have expected them to be. I’m guessing a lot has been sacrificed in translating the book.
But Jack Reacher creates a fun, solid, likeable and almost superhero-like character for us who is a mix of action heroes from the Bourne films, Mission Impossible, Die Hard etc. And that’s all thanks to Tom Cruise’s cocky and calculated performance.