My Ten Cents On: Jack Reacher
I’m really excited to be updating this again. I’m so pumped to be able to get back on this horse and continue my quest of sharing my love, knowledge and opinion on film with all of you out there in the digital world! It’s been way too long away from here, and the absence took its toll on my morale, but I’m back and I’m gonna come back hard!
The greatest tool and, simultaneously, the worst threat to a film’s reception is the hype. People are so quick nowadays to catalog movies by the actors, directors, and trailers, that a lot of great films get tossed aside. The thing is though, while bad marketing can make a good film look bad, good marketing still won’t make a bad movie look good. So in essence, hype, marketing, and pre-viewing expectations generally make movie-watching worse. This was the case with people around me, and the movies that came out in the latter part of last year, and early this year. And one of these movies that I felt got the totally raw end of the hype stick was Jack Reacher.
The film follows the titular character, played by Tom Cruise, as he tries to investigate a murder case. An ex-sniper named Barr, who was discharged from the military, apparently snapped and went on a sniping spree, killing six people. This sniper, arrested for the crime, makes one request. “Get me Jack Reacher.” Jack, being the investigator who had Barr discharged in the first place, was the only man that Barr knew would find the truth. Shortly after however, Barr was beaten into a coma while in lock-up, and could no longer explain his side. Jack arrives to make sure that Barr is put away for good, but after he starts to investigate the shooting, he realizes the case isn’t as open-and-shut as he had thought.
This film wasn’t that open-and-shut either.
My timing in catching this film was nothing short of a spectacular stroke of luck. I had been reading full collections of Pulp stories from the 20’s and 30’s the time that this movie was showing, stories of old-time detectives with their monologues, wide-brim hats, and the reference to women as dolls, or dames, that sort of thing. While watching Jack Reacher, I couldn’t help but feel that Jack was a modern-day incarnation of these old icons and heroes that only exist as parodies nowadays.
The film, first and foremost, is a crime thriller, not an action movie, as I think many people would have assumed. And as far as crime thrillers go, it does a good job in balancing mystery with reality. This film comes up with stuff that’ll keep you guessing, yet seems reasonable when all of it is laid out.
The thing with these pulps, they were made for the masses, for the little guy scraping a living during the Great Depression, and two World Wars, so the writers weren’t too keen on high-brow lead characters. Sherlock Holmes they weren’t, and neither was Jack Reacher. In this movie, the film early on tells you who did it, so there isn’t much guess work in that respect, but it does enough to keep you interested in connecting the dots. It’s like how, for most puzzles, you know what the solution is supposed to look like, but figuring out how to get there is where the fun is.
All-in-all, it is a romp in a world of investigation that caters to a man who is simple, but not stupid. This isn’t a movie that’ll blow you away with the conclusion, but it will give you a genuine: “Ohh! I see, that’s where all the pieces fit,” which is also pretty satisfying.
Apart from that, the film did have some genuine suspenseful and emotional moments. There was one part in particular, where Jack Reacher tells the attorney defending Barr: “I’ll help you investigate his case, if you visit the victims’ families.” and, without going into much detail, this leads to some emotional, thrilling moments in the film.
That being said, I have to give props to the…
+ Dramatic Irony
Oh boy, was this used pretty well. If you’ve read my previous posts, you would know that I’m a huge fan of literary devices when they’re used to great effect. Dramatic Irony, for the uninitiated, is a device wherein the audience knows things that the characters in the film don’t know. Early on, the movie shows you that Barr didn’t do it. It was an incredibly cool twist. This movie wasn’t going to be a question of whether this guy was guilty or not, it was about how the main character would figure this out.
I loved this. It took me out of my comfort zone. Instead of thinking, “Did he do it or not?”, I was thinking, “He didn’t do it. But how did the other guy get away with framing him? And how is Jack going to solve this?” It was refreshing to have different questions run through my head. I was curious to see how the lead character would reach the revelations that was given to us at the start. I was worried when one of the supporting characters came across the villain in the beginning, and he began hitting on her. All in all, the revelations worked to tell a decent story and kept me interested the whole way through.
+ Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog is quite possibly the most awesome German actor AND filmmaker you’ve never heard of, and probably has the coolest name the German language could produce. This guy has made some pretty insane films in his time, often putting himself, his cast, and his crew in some pretty life-threatening situations in order to give us a great shot. In this movie, he plays a villain named “The Zec”. He doesn’t really do much in this film, and he doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but his scenes were some of the most entertaining of the bunch.
I mean, 1) Look at this guy. Doesn’t he look like he’s seen the darkest of what Europe has to offer, spat in its face, and beat it down after years of bloody conflict? Yeah. And 2) this guy has a voice that’ll send chills down your spine. Listen to his verbalization of the “children’s book” Go The F**k to Sleep. It’s just so friggin’ awesome! Play this at night as you go to bed, and tell me that even as a grown-up this voice doesn’t affect you.
His character was okay, nothing special, but this guy, on screen… He was loads of fun.
The best part about these good points was that they were able to draw attention away from the negatives, and make them appear small in comparison, but there were some negatives.
– Jack Reacher
I know what I said before about how Jack Reacher was like a throwback to the 20’s and 30’s. The thing is, in those pulps, people would know what kinds of characters to expect, so backstory wasn’t a big issue, and often times, the thoughts of these characters were printed out for the reader. That being said, movies, usually, don’t have these luxuries.
Jack Reacher, through a lack of character development, came of as generic Tom Cruise. In this respect, yes it was a stereotype, and I can see why people weren’t excited to see this. It was like they took action-Cruise (Ethan Hunt, Maverick, whatever-his-name-was in Knight and Day), and put him in a legitimate thriller context, so it wasn’t bad. But he was still typical Cruise, and they get minus-points for that.
This movie suffered from wrong expectations. That’s my problem with movie marketing. They do create buzz, but so many things could go wrong. The best parts of the movie may be in the trailer and lose impact in the film itself (Spiderpig from the Simpson Movie), or it could make the film look like an action-flick but it turns out to be boring (Reign of Fire), or it could make you think a movie is scary as hell, but it was actually a fantastically comedic horror flick (Drag Me to Hell).
Posters, trailers, gossip on the latest news, they all paint this incomplete picture of the movie before its even seen. Some people go in with such specific expectations that the movie will fit a certain mold. And in their search for the film elements that fit with what they want, they miss out on things that could have made the movie experience better.
My Cent’s Worth: 7/10
The movie didn’t blow me away, I didn’t leave the theater with my foundation shaken, but I was thoroughly entertained, and really into what was happening. Jack Reacher told a pretty decent detective story, and while I can’t say it was the best Tom Cruise movie I’ve seen in a while, this is definitely a good movie for you to pop in when you have nothing else to do.
Stay tuned for what’s coming! ‘Coz I’m about to shake this blog up!