“Jack Reacher,” which is new to home video, is a film that has much more to offer than I expected.
Reacher began as the main character of a popular book series penned by Jim Grant, who writes under the name Lee Child. Grant is British, but his hero is distinctly American. Given the quirky little details I’ve dug up on the Reacher character, I’m baffled that a film on him was never attempted before. Reacher deserves his own cult following, like Jason Bourne or, dare I say it, James Bond.
Of course, I knew none of this when first approaching the film. All I knew was that star Tom Cruise was re-teaming with director Christopher McQuarrie, who was writer/producer on “Valkyrie,” which also starred Cruise, after he won an Oscar for his screenplay for “The Usual Suspects.”
So what’s “Jack Reacher” about? Well, a former military sniper named Barr has gone off the reservation, so to speak, and seemingly murdered five random strangers. At the crime scene, police find a stray shell casing and a quarter the killer used to feed a parking meter. There’s a clean fingerprint on it.
Any police procedural fan can deduce this is a frame-up. When the suspect is taken into custody, he makes no attempt to defend himself. Instead, he scrawls the words “Get Jack Reacher” on his official confession letter.
Reacher, also former military and an uncanny detective, can’t be found. He’s a ghost, living completely off the grid, but he waltzes into the police station and starts sorting out this mystery anyway.
Unfortunately, “Jack Reacher,” which has become one of Cruise’s lowest-grossing films, gets quite a few things wrong.
In the books, Reacher is described as being a 6-foot, 5-inch wall of muscle with sandy blonde hair. Cruise isn’t even close to this in physicality. But truthfully, this isn’t a problem. Cruise does all his own driving stunt work and is convincing in his fight scenes. He may show off just a tad too much. In one sequence in which he’s surrounded, it may as well be the same scene from “The Last Samurai,” minus the period costumes.
And Reacher is utterly interesting. He buys all his clothes from Goodwill. He has an uncommon mind. But the film fails to exploit all of these quirks to the extent that it should.
Rosamund Pike drops the ball as the female lead, Helen. The former Bond Girl lacks authenticity.
Still, I want you to go out a rent it today for the things it gets right, like Robert Duvall as a crotchety codger who is Reacher’s only backup.
So, I’m a fan, even though the film will be remembered as a giant gaffe and sequels probably won’t happen.
My advice is for someone to buy the rights to Reacher and do a remake. Find an actor who better matches the author’s description of Reacher, and let’s get cooking. The world is ready to meet the American James Bond.