Jack Reacher Review: Cheesefest serves as guilty pleasure
Tom Cruise’s career could easily be defined by his plethora of likeable action heros. Contradictory to what its trailers may suggest, Jack Reacher isn’t much different. In fact, it isn’t much different from most other action thrillers in general.
There are two things a movie must do well in order to qualify as art. First, it must entertain the audience. This is the most basic qualification for a movie; if it fails to entertain, then it is a waste of everybody’s time (both the audience’s and the filmmakers’). Secondly, it must have something to say (a relevant moral) and it must say it clearly. This qualification is what separates the boys from the men; the “good” movies from the “great” ones. If a movie fulfills both of these qualifications, then it becomes a richer experience for the audience; they can actually walk away with something. If a movie fulfills the first qualification and not the second, then you get what is called a “guilty pleasure”. Jack Reacher, like many other action thrillers, falls into this category.
First I would like to establish that Jack Reacher definitely has something to say and the filmmakers do leave the ending open to a variety of possibilities, assuming, of course, that this is the birth of a franchise we are witnessing. The problem comes when its own cheesiness overshadows its moral. This comes as a direct result of the filmmakers focusing too much on being entertaining and not enough on trying to get their point across.
Case-in-point: The character of Jack Reacher seems to be a fascinating one and Tom Cruise does pull it off smoothly; however, the filmmakers don’t explore the character very much. Yes he has a lot of wit, charm, and kicks a lot of ass. Sure this makes for a fun and exciting viewing, but the movie doesn’t spend a lot of time exploring what makes Reacher click, such as: where does he draw the line at right or wrong and how exactly does he determine the fate of his victims? These are definitely things that could be made more clear with a sequel, but for all the time Cruise’s character spends on screen, I felt like I hardly knew the man.
As for the rest of the characters, they are all by-the-book, cheese-seekers. Richard Jenkins plays a district attorney attempting to keep a suspected mass killer by the name of Barr, who spends the majority of the movie in comatose, off the streets for good. David Oyelowo plays Detective Emerson. Emerson is just worried about keeping the city inhabitants safe from Jack Reacher, who he believes to be behind all the sudden deaths. As the plot thickens, it turns out that either the DA or the detective, or both, are involved with the original killings and both Jenkins and Oyelowo do their best to trick you into thinking it’s them. This eventually evolves into what seems to be a competition of who can be the cheesiest red herring. This entails cheesy lines such as “You make it sound like I had one [a choice]” and some of the most obvious “concerned” voices and slow-paced head turning ever put to screen.
The gorgeous and talented Rosamund Pike plays Helen, Barr’s lawyer,who is also the DA’s daughter. Not the most original twist, I grant you, but this father-daughter relationship is the basis for about half of the film’s slightly-over-the-top melodrama; She is trying to keep Barr from getting the death penalty under daddy’s prosecution, he feels as if she is doing this to get back at him for their long, weathered history, she becomes suspicious of his actions and over reacts accordingly. For all intents and purposes, it’s the exact same dysfunctional family drama we have seen in any other story, including courthouse dramas.
To make matters cheesier, Joe Kraemer’s in-your-face score makes sure to pound every pulse of anxiety out of your body by over-stressing the suspenseful moments, in attempts to heighten the tension during the scenes that call for it, especially the ones where Helen has to decipher which guy is the bad guy between the detective and her father. Ultimately, the overbearing score only works to dampen the seriousness of the overall film.
Having stated this film’s cheesiness, it is only fair to state that Jack Reacher is also one of the more entertaining films this half of 2012. Remember that smooth performance of a watered-down Jack that I told you about earlier? Well, as it turns out, Tom Cruise makes the most of what he’s given, poking fun at sluts (his word, not mine) who come on to him and attempting to fake a car registration as a search warrant in order to search a meth-head’s house. The bulk of the humor Reacher entails, however, comes from physical, sometimes dark, comedy. At one point he beats one guy’s face in with the back of another guy’s head (trust me, this is all funny in the moment). This movie is also home to one of the most inept car chases in Hollywood history, as Jack slipes and slides down the highway while managing to run into various signs, road blocks, and also other drivers.
Other than being funny, Jack Reacher is also a decent action flick. Sure most of the action comes from the generic gang fight or a car chase, but the editing isn’t choppy and you can actually tell what’s going on. On top of that, there isn’t anything like seeing some meth-head jerk or serial killer getting what he deserves: a nice break in the shoulder or punch in the nose. That’s always exciting.
Yes Jack Reacher is a bit generic: most of its characters are cheesy, the action is basic, and not much unexpected happens, but Tom Cruise’s sly performance and ass-kicking abilities save this movie from flopping into obscurity.
What do you think? Leave a comment.