Review: Jack Reacher (2012) [Warning: Spoilers]

"Yes, I'll need it in lime-green tomorrow, dammit. I'm an all-American hero."
“Yes, I’ll need it in lime-green spandex…by tomorrow, dammit. I’m an all-American hero.”

I’d devoted a whole post to “Discovering Jack Reacher” in July 2012. I wrote it after I’d heard from Boy Meets Book and @jaynepersian that none other than Tom Cruise was starring as Reacher in the first screen adaptation of this series of Lee Child’s books.

At the time, I waxed bilious about what a travesty this casting choice was. In fact, I’d declared: “The fact that Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher has killed any appeal the movie may have had.”


So, it was going to be a really hot day. We’re in a heatwave, you know.

We wanted to seek refuge in a movie theatre. What we wanted to watch was Skyfall, but none of the screening times matched our babysitter availability times.

In the mood for an action flick, we finally opted for Jack Reacher (hereafter known as JR), with a fair amount of jaundiced commentary on my part about this choice.

Overall, we came out liking the film a lot more than we expected. This could be interpreted as the equivalent of my brother’s now-notorious assessment of films as “not as bad as you’d think” (he’s a horror afficionado with a penchant for B- to D-grade flicks…).

This SMH review notes that it recalls 1980s action movies like Lethal Weapon (as if this is a bad thing?). Perhaps it’s because I was an 80s teen, and had a family that wallowed in action/kungfu/tough-guy films that I found JR watchable, occasionally witty, and surprisingly true to how I envisioned Child’s protagonist. As I mentioned in my earlier post about Reacher, he is a smidge super-heroic, but – really – would I be watching a flick about an average Joe as part of my heatwave escape plan?

In the film, Reacher appears on the scene as an initially reluctant investigator, someone who is misrecognised as a friend of the accused. He’s brought onto the defence team to clear the name of a war-veteran sniper, a character for whom he is no champion. The villainous forces at work target Reacher, and we’re meant to be clued up on the extremes of which they are capable in a scene that is intended to be gruesome but, instead, comes across as Pythonesque and damn funny. Just listen out for: “I had no knife in the gulag!” (or similar). It’s a corker.

The dialogue was relatively snappy and smart (if you ignore the previous example, and the clunky indulgence of Reacher lecturing Helen the Lawyer about ‘What is freedom? What is liberty?”). The film had good action pacing, and a satisfying feeling of being along for the ride. Although we do end up with hyper-cliched situations such as Reacher having to save the kidnapped woman and indulge in the conceit of a bare-knuckled fight during the finale, it wasn’t boring.

One Shot (novel by Lee Child)
One Shot (novel by Lee Child)

Despite all my reservations about Cruise in the role, he was fine. In fact, I’ve commented to a few people that Cruise has aged: his body is different, his face wasn’t as ‘recognisable’ to me as I had assumed it was. This all made him more interesting to watch.

Also, as Reacher, Cruise wasn’t required to be charming or chatty, which contrasts with the pretty-boy hero roles he has had. He was required to look pained every time a woman was being treated badly, and resolved to fix the situation. While a bit simplistic, I didn’t mind this. Perhaps the simplicity and seeming all-knowingness of movie-Reacher is part of his appeal.

All of that said, I still couldn’t help being childish about the height issue and watching for how the movie accommodated this. Let’s just say it did a lot of accommodating…!

There’s a cameo in the film from Lee Child, which I liked. I’ve always loved how Stephen King inserts himself into many of the movie adaptations of his books, and Child obviously couldn’t resist doing the same. The line that he gets to acknowledge is a good one, too.

Out of the seventeen Reacher books they chose to put on the screen first, it had to be One Shot, the very book I had started reading a few days before. I’ll still finish reading it, if only to check if the screen version meandered from the original text. Then it’ll be on to the other eight I haven’t yet read!


12 thoughts on “Review: Jack Reacher (2012) [Warning: Spoilers]

  1. Som 14/01/2013 / 2:50 pm

    Mmm you may have sold me…so does this mean you’ll be seeing any potential follow up JR films heatwave or not?

    • Tseen Khoo 14/01/2013 / 3:01 pm

      I think I would see them, but not necessarily at the cinema (though, it must be said, we were the beneficiaries of free tix for JR).

      Have you seen BOURNE LEGACY (starring Jeremy Renner + Rachel Weisz)? Saw it the other night and it wasn’t a bad addition to the Bourne franchise.

  2. flipper 15/01/2013 / 4:35 pm

    MB and I have read all the Child books and enjoyed them. ( I wouldn’t recommend reading two back to back which I have done though….) Like you, we were both hugely disappointed with the choice of Cruise in the Reacher role. Your review is giving us second thoughts………
    I’d love to know who your ideal Reacher would have been.

    • Tseen Khoo 15/01/2013 / 9:07 pm

      Heya, T. – thanks for dropping by! I didn’t know you were Reacher readers! Um, I read four in a row at one stage (I may be a tad OCD)…

      I still don’t think TC was an ideal choice; he just didn’t end up ruining the whole thing for me.

      Ideal Reacher would’ve been someone like – dare I say the name? – Daniel Craig. Tall, craggy, light looks. Potential for military bearing and ‘drifter’ persona. Your casting thoughts?

      • tgb9593 16/01/2013 / 9:28 am

        Yes, I would have said DC myself, except he is so…..BOND. But he does have the silent, sullen look I associate with Reacher.
        Four in a row- you call that a TAD OCD? Haha!

  3. Som 15/01/2013 / 8:23 pm

    Didn’t mind Bourne Legacy. Great begining but then the story really went no where and was unsatisfying at the end. Renner is ok but definitely not the charm or charisma of Matt Damon!

    • Tseen Khoo 15/01/2013 / 9:16 pm

      I didn’t mind the narrative track + quite liked the resolution where Rachel W. was the one who saved their skins. I had the feeling they were setting up Aaron Cross to be more superheroic in future flicks (what with the bonded viruses…).

      Have you noticed, though, how easily white folks on the run disappear into exotic Asian landscapes?

      • Som 16/01/2013 / 7:11 pm

        Must admit I had JR as Hawkeye/The Avengers imprinted in my head and kept expecting him to come out with a bow! Btw have you seen the Avengers? It’s pretty funny and snappy dialogue from Joss Whedon.

        Ah yes let’s go on the run where we completely stand out:-)

        • Tseen Khoo 16/01/2013 / 9:34 pm

          Quite liked the Avengers – thought Robert Downey stole the show as Ironman, as usual. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Hawkeye character in the film. Couldn’t see what everyone was going on about. Actually prefer Jeremy R. in Bourne!

  4. Lou 15/01/2013 / 11:47 pm

    I was definitely not planning to see the film when I heard that Tom Cruise had been cast as Jack (women want him, men want to be him) Reacher because, honestly, who wants to be Tom Cruise. Maybe I should reconsider?

    I think that Liam Neeson or Jeffrey Dean Morgan would have made very good Reachers.

    I loved Skyfall (Daniel Craig = phwoar) and I really liked the Bourne Legacy as well.

    • Tseen Khoo 16/01/2013 / 11:50 am

      Yeah, that ‘women want him’ thing was kinda distasteful and, indeed, what self-respecting guy wants to be TC (esp post-couch)?

      You should reconsider, go watch it, and come back to tell me what shocking taste in movies I have. 😉

      Let me preface my next statement with the fact that I love Liam Neeson.

      I think LN may be…too old to be Reacher?

      I had to look up Jeffrey Dean Morgan last night, as it happens, b/c we were watching EXPENDABLES 2 (cf. previous statement re shocking taste in movies…) – and he’s a possibility. Maybe a bit too pretty, though.

      • Lou 16/01/2013 / 10:39 pm

        I think me saying you have shocking taste in movies / television would be like the pot calling the kettle dirty bottom (hilarious Buffy quote which proves my point).

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