Review: JACK REACHER (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Review: JACK REACHER (2012)

Review: JACK REACHER (2012)

When the trailer for JACK REACHER was debuted online, I have to say the marketing team does a great job promoting the movie as a refreshingly low-tech crime thriller, which is a welcome change-of-pace from the usual genre you've seen nowadays. In fact, the trailer almost led me to believe the movie is going to deliver a muscular cinematic experience especially with the always-reliable Tom Cruise playing a bad-ass character. But upon finally watching the movie, it is clear that all the trailers are misleading and JACK REACHER is actually nothing more than a wannabe crime thriller trying so hard to look cool and pulpy at the same time. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, who last made his only directing effort in 2000's underwhelming THE WAY OF THE GUN, fails miserably to bring Lee Child's much-beloved Jack Reacher novel series into a worthwhile big screen adaptation.

REVIEW: At the beginning, the movie opens promisingly enough: A crazed sniper gunned down five seemingly random passersby across from the Pittsburgh Pirates' PNC Park. That scene alone is certainly an unnerving experience because it coincidentally mirrors too closely from the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

So far, so good. But what supposed to be an intriguing mystery quickly nosedives into a series of pedestrian narrative structures. Soon after the killings, Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), who is in charge of the case, manages to gather enough evidence to suggest that this senseless act involves an unstable ex-military sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora). James is immediately arrested and brought in for questioning. During the interrogation by Emerson and DA Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins), James writes down on a piece of paper that reads "Get Jack Reacher". The mystery man named Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) turns out to be a former military investigator who had went exiled following his service and he is notoriously hard to track down. But out of nowhere, Jack soon shows up on the scene and he claims he has no idea why James would ask for him because he hardly knows him at all. However, he starts to help Alex Rodin's daughter, Helen (Rosamund Pike), who also happens to be a district attorney, to gather clues for the case. When Jack is assaulted in a local bar, he begins to suspect that someone is determined to hinder his investigation. As he gathers more clues, he subsequently discovers that one of the five murders wasn't random after all and suggests there's a bigger conspiracy theory involved, while he has a reason to believe that James is being framed after all.

Things get worse when Jack becomes a prime suspect in the murder of a young woman named Sandy (Alexia Fast), who happens to be one of the peoples involved in the local-bar assault. With the police on his tail and a gang of ruthless killers in the midst, Jack must rely on his wit to catch the true gunman and uncover his motives before it's too late.

Somewhere in between, there's an interesting whodunit especially the way Jack and Helen slowly piece out all the puzzles involving five random strangers' life before their eventual death. Also, the movie is blessed with McQuarrie's lean and fuss-free direction particularly when comes to staging some effective action scenes. Midway, there's a pulse-pounding 1970s-style car chase throughout the night streets of Pittsburgh town. That scene alone is tautly framed without the usual shaky-cam aesthetics or fancy visual-effects tinkering -- just clean and direct. You will also admire the fact that Tom Cruise did all his own stunt driving during the car chase sequence.

Despite those flashes of brilliance, JACK REACHER remains a huge disappointment. On the surface, McQuarrie seems to be smart enough to favour the kind of captivating direction that evokes the 1970s visual and narrative style, but his overall execution is disappointingly bland. Not to mention, at 130 minutes, it's certainly overlong to justify this as a coherent whole. The pace is awfully sluggish, and McQuarrie doesn't seem to have a clue when to push the right direction between action and dialogue scenarios. In the end, the movie is too talky for its own good until it becomes a butt-numbing experience to sit through.

Review: JACK REACHER (2012)

As for the acting department, Tom Cruise has that typically charismatic presence to satisfy casual viewers. Likewise, he looks good when he plays an action role but in JACK REACHER, it's a different story altogether. You see, Lee Child's character is supposed to be 6'5" tall with a hulking appearance. With Tom Cruise playing the role (he's only 5'7"), he clearly doesn't look the part (even though Lee Child himself favours him a lot). Prior to the release, fans of the novel series has cried blasphemy for casting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. And no doubt, Tom Cruise is fatally miscast for the role. In fact, apart from the vastly different appearance, he doesn't look convincing enough as a cold-hearted man who takes the law into his own hands. Sure, he played a cold-hearted character so perfectly before and that was COLLATERAL (2004). But here, he looks awkward in which he tries so hard to be tough, cool, and funny with a dry sense of humour at the same time. The way he threatens the bad guy on the phone where he says, "I'm gonna beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot!"sounds less of a mean guy than a parody of such character.

Rosamund Pike, who plays Helen Rodin, is also laughably bad. She spends most of her time looking bug-eyed or trying to get the viewers' attention with her low-cut tank top. As the main bad guy, casting veteran filmmaker Werner Herzog is an inspired choice. Earlier in the movie, there's a shivering scene where he explains to a person how he used to chew off his own fingers to avoid gangrene when he was in a Siberian prison camp. Herzog would have made into a memorable villain, but McQuarrie fails to capitalise his potential. Even the other inspired casting of Robert Duvall, who reunited with Tom Cruise for the first time since 1990's DAYS OF THUNDER, is underwhelming as well.

JACK REACHER is clearly a missed opportunity. Any chance of progressing this further as a proposed franchise looks slim to me. A proper reboot with the right actor is the best choice to make this right. Till then, I have to say that JACK REACHER is one of the worst movies I've ever seen this year.

Despite the refreshingly low-tech approach to turn JACK REACHER into a muscular cinematic experience, this big screen adaptation of Lee Child's famous novel is mostly a missed opportunity. 

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