Wednesday, October 22, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘Jack Reacher': This film don’t know Jack

By
From page A9 | January 02, 2013 |

“Jack Reacher”

3 stars

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney

Rating: PG-13, for violence, profanity, fleeting nudity and some drug content

Popular book series makes a disappointing transition to the big screen

By Derrick Bang
Enterprise film critic

Director/scripter Christopher McQuarrie’s “Jack Reacher” is a serviceable thriller: standard-issue Hollywood suspense, with Tom Cruise delivering his usual charm while working his way through a murder mystery that unfolds with the customary blend of plot twists, car chases, gunplay and bare-knuckle fist fights.

In other words, a reasonably diverting way to spend two hours.

That said, fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels will hate this film. With good cause.

His star wattage notwithstanding, Cruise is wrong for the role. Reacher is, quite famously, 6 feet 5 inches tall; he sports a 50-inch chest, weighs between 210 and 250 pounds, and has hands “like two supermarket chickens.” When Reacher chooses to attack a thug, the impact — to borrow from Child’s prose — is akin having a mountain fall on the guy.

Cruise is 5 feet 7 and might hit 170, dripping wet. To say he lacks Reacher’s all-essential physical presence is gross understatement.

At one point during this film, as investigating police are trying to determine whether Reacher is staying at a particular motel, the desk clerk immediately suggests a specific room, insisting they “couldn’t miss this guy.” That line might have made sense in the book, when describing the actual Reacher; it’s a daft bit of dialogue here, when referencing Cruise.

During the months leading up to this film’s release, Child — well aware of the casting controversy — made the magazine and talk-show rounds, attempting peremptory damage control. He pointed out that Reacher has three salient characteristics: He’s always the smartest guy in the room; he’s still and quiet, yet menacing; and he’s huge. Child quite reasonably pointed out that Hollywood inevitably is about compromise, and that getting two of out three should be acceptable.

Fair enough, and yes: Cruise’s Reacher moves stealthily, even when at rest, and he radiates an intriguing aura of latent menace. And yes, he always seems to be the smartest guy in the room.

But that’s only because most of the other people in the room, in this film, are idiots.

And that’s this film’s biggest disappointment: worse, even, than Cruise’s grandstanding insistence that he can too beat up five guys without even breathing hard. (One cannot help snickering, during the opening credits, at the initial line that insists this film is “a Tom Cruise production.” No kidding.)

Child writes smart and ferociously clever novels, and this adaptation is neither.

Which is an even bigger mystery than the one at the center of this storyline, because McQuarrie won a well-deserved Academy Award for writing 1995’s impressively twisty “The Usual Suspects,” which remains a benchmark of ingenious cinematic suspense. The casting of Cruise may have angered fans, but McQuarrie’s involvement felt inspired.

How tragic, then, that McQuarrie takes every opportunity to dumb-down Child’s tightly plotted novel, ruining or eliminating numerous “reveals” while turning Reacher into little more than a standard-issue blunt instrument.

Consider, as Exhibit A, a scene when Reacher tracks a no-account opponent — the leader of the aforementioned five guys — back to the ramshackle home he shares with his mother. In Child’s “One Shot,” the novel on which this film is marginally based, Reacher’s subsequent conversation with this forlorn woman is illuminating, even tragic, for what it reveals about her, and her relationship with her wayward son.

OK, fine; that’s unnecessary exposition in this cinematic context. But was it really necessary to transform this encounter into another assault on Reacher, with two goons surprising him — which would, needless to say, never happen — and then blowing their advantage by knocking each other senseless with (respectively) a clumsily wielded crowbar and baseball bat?

Honestly, the scene plays more like an outtake from a Three Stooges short. It’s absolutely ludicrous, and apparently present only so that Cruise can earn a chuckle by peering warily over the lip of the bathtub that, by sheer chance, has saved his ass.

No, no, no.

This isn’t an adaptation of a Lee Child novel; it’s a Tom Cruise vanity production very much in the mold of 2010’s equally silly “Knight and Day.” Since we know McQuarrie can do much better, we can assume that Cruise wielded ultimate control and shaped Child’s novel according to his own desires.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, but the disappointment is palpable.

Things begin chillingly — particularly given recent real-world events — as a sniper calmly executes five random citizens strolling along an attractive Pittsburgh waterfront park; the killer then vanishes. The case falls to police detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), whose team methodically processes a wealth of forensic evidence that leads, fairly quickly, to James Barr (Joseph Sikora).

Confronted by both Emerson and Rodin (Richard Jenkins), a district attorney who only takes slam-dunk cases, Barr surprises them with a request that they find Reacher. Jack, at ease in Miami, has learned of the killing spree via TV news; he obligingly arrives in Pittsburgh just as Emerson and Rodin have realized that Reacher lives totally off the grid and can’t be found … unless he wishes otherwise.

As it happens, though, Reacher has little interest in helping Barr, much to the dismay of defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), who has taken this high-profile case in part to spite her father. Reacher knows Barr from their service days in Kuwait, when the latter was a military-trained sniper who snapped and killed four American soldiers; the case was hushed up only because the victims turned out to be serial rapists. Rather than risk the public censure, the U.S. government buried the case and freed Barr.

Reacher, the military investigator who put that case together, warned Barr that he dare not step out of line again … or else.

Reacher therefore would seem the last person Barr would want in town … so why make that request? Helen can’t figure it out, and although Reacher initially intends to leave after confirming that the cops have an airtight case, she correctly deduces that this core question will eat at him, as well.

And after Reacher finds himself in the middle of such a blatantly contrived attempt to “discourage” him with a five-way beating, he knows somebody else is pulling the strings. At which point … game on.

The always effervescent Pike deftly navigates her intricate role, as Helen initially trusts Reacher but then begins to wonder if his increasingly elaborate conspiracy theory is no more than the fanciful ravings of a social misfit. And yet there’s no denying the growing physical attraction, and one of McQuarrie’s best-staged scenes occurs in Reacher’s motel room, as Helen’s close proximity becomes combustible.

Pike also shines during an encounter with one of the victim’s grieving family members: a scene that seems benign but suddenly, unexpectedly, turns scary.

Robert Duvall pops up in the third act as Cash, a former U.S. Marine who owns a shooting range where Barr practiced his craft. Cash’s part is greatly expanded from that in the novel, to take advantage of Duvall’s engaging presence; he delivers a feisty performance that brings greater snap to the film’s climax.

Much of this story takes place at night, with Pittsburgh’s mean streets given an additional veneer of menace by veteran cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.

But while the film’s climax certainly is exciting and cathartic, McQuarrie takes the plot in an entirely different direction … and not a very satisfying one. The so-called answers aren’t sufficiently linked to earlier events, which results in an odd paradox: Viewers are more likely to follow the plot if they’ve read Child’s novel … even though McQuarrie changes so many key details.

All in all, not a very auspicious cinematic debut for Jack Reacher. Sadly, the source novel’s title — “One Shot” — may be a prophetic indication of this character’s big-screen lifespan.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    County to fund pilot project for West Sac homeless

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

     
    A favorite autumn tradition

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Marathon specialist Winter heads to cycling shrine

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Davis Arts Center: a call to artists for Holiday Sale Wall of Art

    By Erie Vitiello | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Author showcases field biology as he revels in nature

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Apply soon to be a Master Gardener

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Terez will perform at Wine’d Down Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Super-fun 5K run will support UCD students

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Wine-tasting and auction benefit Advanced Treble Choir

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Entries due Nov. 1 in VFW essay contests

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Teen services grant applications due this week

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Voice of the Wood plans family Halloween show

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Garamendi will speak at U.N. Day event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Wolk sets ‘Morning with the Mayor’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Volunteers sought to chip in on parks cleanup

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Setting a good example

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A5

    Composting workshop set at Grace Garden

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Kids form a lifelong habit of drinking water

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Farmers Market hosts Fall Festival

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    A Taste of India dinner benefits Davis Community Meals

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Women and men want the same things in cars … usually

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    California state parks show off fall color

    By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: A7

    October is fall car care month

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Railroad work will close Eighth Street

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    Special education information night scheduled

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A9

     
    Halloween Carnival planned Oct. 26

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Mondavi Center gift shop plans holiday sale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Soda bottlers spend big to fight S.F. ban

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A9

    Clinton sounding like a candidate in S.F. appearance

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Bad business over the phone

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Vote no on Prop. 1, because it’s no solution

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    David Fitzsimmons cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

    .

    Sports

    Giants rip Royals in Game 1

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD women’s soccer postseason hopes flickering

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    A typical Blue Devil girls water polo win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DHS boys hold off Rio Americano in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Devils are on track for volleyball playoffs after win

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    AYSO roundup: Local winners have the Eye of the Tiger

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Alliance/Legacy roundup: Italia cruises past Chico

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: Fipps earns another preseason hoops award

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Mariana Brumbaugh Henwood

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics