Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jack Reacher

Get out your big guns and fast cars, we're reviewing Jack Reacher!
I don't know what happened, I just could not get Tom Cruise's face right.
The police arrest a man who they think killed five people in a homicidal spree, and they've got an airtight case. The only thing the suspect writes down is the name, "Jack Reacher". Jack(Tom Cruise) rides into town and investigates the murders, finding evidence to suggest not everything is what it seems...

Jack Reacher is not what I expected.  It is a visceral, brutal movie.  It's almost a vicious parody of the action-packed popcorn flicks of the 80's and 90's.  This may be a case of false advertising, but I was expecting Tom Cruise's return to action movies to be a little more light-hearted. Fair warning, anyone who's still deeply affected by the Sandy Hook shooting should NOT see this movie.

See, Jack Reacher is a very hardened, shocking film. It goes a long way for realism. What could have been the arcadey pings of bullet sounds are now huge thunderous booms. It starts off with the main villain shooting 5 innocent people with a high-powered sniper rifle, and we feel each shot as it reverberates through the air, finding each target. And if that weren't disturbingly realstic enough, later in the movie we're made to relive the shooting again, but this time from the point of view of the victims. If you weren't unsettled by it then, you will be now.  With the recent school shooting, I can't say it's in bad taste, but it is terrible timing. Again, if the shooting really got to you, this is not the light-hearted action movie you should see.  Then again, if you're a gun nut, this should be right up your alley. Loads of gunporn.

Not that it's all bad.  From a strictly action movie standpoint, it's a very graphic explicit action.  It's brutal.  Instead of just watching it, you feel like you're in the midst of the shooting and the hand-to-hand fighting. Maybe if not for the recent tragedy we wouldn't be having this conversation.  The action is very good, with loads of fist-fights, shootings, and even a few nice car chases.  But it's all very serious where I wanted it to be fun!  Super super serious.  And it doesn't quite make sense, because there are silly parts and one-liners and it's built like a 90's action movie, so there's this weird disconnect between the silly parts and the very serious narrative.

Then again, that might be a good thing.  In fact, it might be brilliant. if their purpose was to make a mainstream 90's action flick but as a serious movie, showing how ridiculous all the troupes are and how odd it is that we're rooting for these people, well then bravo guys.  Jack Reacher is not a nice guy. He's tough, uncaring and kind of an asshole.  Instead of rooting for him when he does all these things, we're kind of put off and think he's slightly demented. But he does all the same things an action hero would do! He kills a huge number of guys, he goes after the girl, he even does that weird thing of throwing down his weapon in the final boss fight and fighting hand to hand!  Why you do that guy?  This is dumb!

The problem with Reacher as a character though, is that he's too perfect to be interesting.  All women want him, but he's too good a guy to sleep with any of them. He knows how to handle himself in a fight with any number of guys, he can seamingly use any weapon, he shows up exactly when he needs to, he's a loner, he's smart, he never takes a hit, and he's always right. He's boring. Then again it might be another commentary, but from what I hear from the books, I doubt that.
Costarring Rosamund Pike's cleavage.

This is definitly the kind of movie in which someone durring the shooting of the film, looked at the main female lead(Rosamund Pike playing a defense attorney) and said, "Is there any way we can get more of her cleavage in the shot?" There's really no point to it. She's not a sexualized character.  It just feels like the move is saying, "Hey, we know you're not listening to this boring woman, so here's some bewbs!" And yes, she does need to get saved by Reacher in the end. Also, a woman is brutally beaten to death, so you know, not the most appealing movie to women.

Not to spoil anything, but the end is unsatisfying. You find out who the main bad guy is, but you don't really find out why. And on the one hand, that's interesting. It shows Reacher doesn't really care why as long as the bad guys are taken care of. But on the other hand, it's not who you think it is, and I'd really like to know why they did it. I mean, seriously, you are explicitly not giving me the reason I sat through this whole thing.

The movie is executed very well. There's a lot that's subtle and nuanced, and dialogue is only used when it's needed. I actually really liked the dialogue, especially when Reacher has some sharp back-and-forth with someone. It's entertaining and quippy without being overdone.  The action is brutal, but there are so many smaller moments that are just a collection of glances to one another that say so much. One scene has Reacher in a car about to floor it while he exchanges looks with a detective, both sussing out wha the other is going to do, having an intense back and forth between their eyes.  There is a better movie buried in here. And the narrative is very intriguing  you actively care about the plot, trying to figure out who did it, how and why.  And the soundtrack is... serviceable.

So I really don't know about Jack Reacher. On the one hand, it's a pretty good action movie with graphic, very serious action, an intrigung narrative, and some funny bits that don't really fit, but are nice all the same. On the other hand, it's a 90's action movie too serious for its own good, and too brutal for the time it's been released.

THE GOOD: Intense action, good fighting, fire fights and car chases, intriguing narrative, gun porn, great dalogue and subtle moments.

THE BAD: Action may be too intense for some, main character is boring, too serious, funny bits don't fit, gun porn, weird 90's/80's tropes that don't quite match, not great soundtrack, unsatisfying ending.

THE VERDICT: $$$ Maybe. It's an alright action movie, but if there's something better or you can't take the shooting, then pass.

MOVIES LIKE IT: The Expendables, Alex Cross, Bourne Series, Commando

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The fight between the five guys and one girl in the trailer. It should be more fun than it is. It looks like fun in the trailer, but in the movie, there's a lot more set up that makes much more serious.

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