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Jack Reacher Review: Violent Fun, But is it a Franchise-Starter?

Simon's Rating: 7/10 Fused Rating: 7.0/10 (2 review total) Potboilers, procedurals and investigative thrillers are among the most abundant entity around these days, made even more prevalent by countless small screen endeavors that in the last half-decade spurred a resurgence for this style of lark. As such, a seemingly intelligent move would be to adapt a well-known series offering such entertainment (in this case Lee Child’s Jack Reacher ensemble) instead of hoping to distinguish your effort with promotional material alone (not to mention adding franchise potential to the mix). Smarter still would be to cast one of the world’s most recognizable and bankable faces in the lead role with Tom Cruise, despite any number of physical differences from the tall blond Jack Reacher of the novels to the notoriously unimposing stature of the A-lister. So with all the pieces in play, so to speak, the question begs to be asked if all this came together as planned. This is certainly an apt instance to use the “yes and no” label, as despite having moments of greatness and a smooth energy, the easy lead casting choice and odder filmmaking choices hinder what could have been a sizzling kick-off to a new dynasty for Cruise and co. In the world of Jack Reacher, the titular individual is an apparitional drifter, emerging from often literal shadows when justice needs to be served. A former military police officer with a shady past of his own, Reacher responds to a grisly mass shooting that left five random victims dead and may have been perpetrated by a man he arrested in his work for the military. There are number of interesting elements to this setup, not including the tense and tragic act itself, which is presented in a way we haven't quite seen before that's made all the more unsettling due to recent real-world events (hence the delay of the film's world premiere). Right off the bat we’re made aware that the wrong man has been arrested for the crime and when Reacher makes his (rather hilarious) entrance, it’s to make sure the man is put behind bars for good after slipping through his fingers years prior. Normally we see this type of character step up to the plate to defend a brother in arms despite how guilty he looks, not to ensure his incarceration and execution. Things certainly don’t end up that way, but the twist on the opening act is admirable. The remaining cast includes Rosamund Pike as Reacher's ally and the defender of the accused, Jai Courtney as the chief baddie, Richard Jenkins as the District Attorney and a deliciously sinister Werner Herzog in a rare acting role. Needless to say his back story is rather Joker-esque. Pike and Cruise display an easy chemistry in their scenes together and thankfully a romantic angle isn’t shoehorned in, though the villains aren’t very well fleshed out or given much to do in general. In many ways they feel like setup villains for future instalments, particularly Herzog, whose role very much mimics that of Mr. White in Casino Royale (though his comeuppance is even more satisfying). While all eyes are inevitably on Cruise, the real winner of Jack Reacher is writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who proves to be not only a more than competent action director, but also cements the fact that he can be an immensely witty screenwriter. Cruise delivers his lines with aplomb and wins some big laughs, but it’s nothing any other talented thesp couldn’t have provided. In the end, if a sequel were to be greenlit, I would opt to return to this universe not so much for Cruise but for more McQuarrie charm. In fact, McQuarrie will likely direct Cruise in the next Mission: Impossible, and that would suffice. A number of the film’s faults, however, also stem from the script arena. McQuarrie's need to include conflicts and gunplay (in a number of situations) without any real bearing on the plot stick out awkwardly and are clearly in place simply to show Reacher’s badass skills. Similarly does the cliché of a warring father and daughter on opposite sides of the courtroom. There is also an ill-conceived subplot with Robert Duvall as a gun-range owner whose motives are sketchy and erratic to say the least. Much of the material seems an awful lot like filler, regardless of how well-staged or funny some of the material in these segments are. What McQuarrie does show unequivocally is his knack for directing action, and in addition to a number of smaller clashes (which still integrate the humor of the rest of the script), the aforementioned sniper scene and a further climactic sniper skirmish are flawlessly executed. Even the scenes without action are crisply presented, well lit and interestingly framed. All round, this is a very well-made movie. Although it doesn’t make a meaty case for a franchise, Jack Reacher is a very entertaining diversion with an antihero in serious need of motive and back story should sequels come to fruition. From the aforementioned charm of the setup to the fact that Reacher doesn’t even carry a gun or kill at a moment's notice until pushed too far, Jack Reacher has enough going for it to warrant a revisit and Cruise’s ability to anchor a film, even if his casting was questionable to begin with. Rating: 7/10 Kieran thought: "Jack Reacher is a solidly entertaining action-thriller, even it is a little faulted. Jack Reacher himself is basically an American Sherlock Holmes, a movie about an expert investigator who can see clues, characteristics and patterns no else sees, sees alternative scenarios and come up with a logical conclusion. Cruise plays a darker anti-hero with a great wit (thanks to Christopher McQuarrie’s lines and Cruise’s delivery). The action was well-shot and choreographed, even if the fight scenes were a bit too one-sided and the excellent car chase was similar to one in Bullitt. There are good stylistic choices throughout, from the gritty fighting, the well timed comedy and the opening shot with the sniper, but the villains’ plot was very underwhelming considering the lengths they went to." Rating: 7/10


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