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.”
*FAST FORWARD 6 MONTHS*
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.
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!