“Jack Reacher” Unable to Reach its Audience

Tom Cruise has starred in or produced about one movie a year for the past twenty years. Many of these films have been extremely successful, landing Cruise as Hollywood’s highest paid actor by a large margin. But even Cruise and all of the commercial success that usually follows in his wake couldn’t save “Jack Reacher”.

“Jack Reacher” is a book-to-film adaptation of a crime thriller novel, and you can tell just by watching it. The movie is overly wordy, and almost as stoic as the willingly displaced titular character, played by Cruise. The writers need to learn a lesson in the concept of “show, don’t tell”. The audience is incapable of connecting a few dots themselves, and they are left wondering until a character finally explains it. By then, many have lost interest.

Reacher started out decently enough. Clever cinematography, thrilling music, and an investigation following random sniper killings made me excited for the film. Sadly, Reacher started going downhill as soon as dialogue and the characters were introduced. It only recovered to that initial level of enjoyment in the last two minutes of the film.

The characters were flat, the acting wasn’t awful but wasn’t particularly good, it looks like it was made for TV, the action scenes made my willing suspension of disbelief check out early, there were several inconsistencies in characters and tone, and the villain. Oh, the villain…

Werner Herzog, arguably one of the greatest film directors alive today, plays the villain in Reacher. What a waste of talent. This antagonist makes old-time James Bond villains look like contemporary criminals (and this character is in a movie that is desperately, desperately trying to appear realistic). Despite the director’s attempts to make this villain menacing, all the character does in his two major scenes is sit down and mumble with his hands in his pockets, or stand still and mumble with his hands in his pockets.

Cruise’s character (Reacher) isn’t as bad as the villain, but he’s still annoying enough. Jack Reacher is a drifting army vet with a gloomy disposition, uncaring attitude, and nothing to lose. But his character is inconsistent. In one scene, Reacher indifferently shoots an old unarmed criminal in the face. In another scene, he throws away his gun so that he can have a fair and gentlemanly fight with a murdering madman, even though there’s a hostage at stake.

The tone is wonky too. Reacher is a crime thriller, so naturally it’s pretty dark. However, the occasional bits of comic relief over-correct it. At one point it seems the protagonist will certainly be bludgeoned to death by the bad guy’s goons, but suddenly the henchmen start beating each other up in a Three Stooges fashion.

All of these factors and more make the movie a let-down. At best, it’s an average crime thriller. At worst, it’s one of Tom Cruise’s worst flops. Readers of the original book and die-hard Cruise fans might like Jack Reacher. But to most, it’s just a really long, so-so episode of CSI.

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