I once worked with a guy who swore by the saying that “Tom Cruise doesn’t make bad movies.” It is very obvious that this man had not seen Far and Away or was just trying to scrub it from his memory. While I know that his phrase was completely false, I always found that I somewhat agreed with the statement. When everyone was jumping on the couch jumping mockery bandwagon I always shrugged it off and said “Couch jumper or not, Crazy Tom usually makes pretty good movies.” Coming off the success of what was a struggling Mission Impossible franchise last year, Cruise hits theaters again this year with Jack Reacher.
The previews and extended clips for Jack Reacher really had me confused as to what I was getting into. It looked as though someone had made Tom Cruise into a gruff, bad ass who would stop at nothing to get the truth. It seemed more a role for Jason Statham than it did Tom Cruise but I was willing to give the action crime drama a shot. Perhaps what intrigued me even more was that it just seemed different from any other generic Tom Cruise action flick that had come out before it. I saw the film so I guess in some ways their marketing campaign worked. However, the real problem with Jack Reacher is not how the studio gets you interested in the film but the outcome once you get in the theater seats.
Cruise tries his hand very hard at being the hard nosed, intelligent and super observant Reacher but just always seems to fall short. His attempts at this character is both “super cool” and laughable at the same time. I haven’t been this annoyed by a film since Lucky Number Slevin. Reacher is a film that tries to be so clever that it is just sickening. It attempts to be ground breaking and cool and yet reeks of Hollywood mediocrity and comes off as a Daniel Craig era James Bond wannabe film. Cruise is a baffling choice for the lead. He’s just too much…Tom Cruise…to pull off this role. Tom Cruise spends every movie running quickly from explosions, bad guys or whatever else with that big toothy grin on his face; he really doesn’t seem to be “Jack Reacher.” (Don’t believe me on the Tom Cruise running–see video to the right) Oddly enough the makers of Jack Reacher tried to control what makes Tom Cruise be Tom Cruise and the movie just feels out of place.
The plot weaves a tale of a frame up of an ex-military sniper and Jack Reacher being the only one who will be bold enough to lead everyone wherever the truth may take him. However, there really doesn’t seem to be much of a surprise here. It pushes forth headlong in the direction you expect it to go and never really mixes it up. In many ways this makes Jack Reacher a bore. The film makers suck you in by making you think Cruise is doing something different– so I blame them for not giving him a story that lets him push the envelope and really take this new character to the next level. Unfortunately Cruise’s support crew are just unable to do that. I also had huge issues with the “look” of the film. This had too perfect of a look and felt way too Hollywood for what it was going for. Everything looked way too colorful and too perfectly placed that the film never felt realistic to me.
But despite all that there was a few redeeming moments in Jack Reacher. The first would be the pairing of Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall on screen again. If my memory serves me right we haven’t seen that since the days of Days of Thunder. Those two seem to have a natural chemistry and play off each other very well. The other thing that worked well was the use of music or lack there of in the film. The film goes through a several minute car chase scene that relies only on the sound of an engine to build suspense. It felt to me like a throwback to films like The French Connection. They also used the same technique in the final show down as well. Both uses worked really well and gave it a more realistic feel. I began to wonder had their not been a soundtrack to this film if I would have enjoyed it even more. Those scenes worked really well in the film and I had wished that the film actually did more of those sort of scenes than they actually did.
By the time the credits rolled I had really mixed feelings on Jack Reacher. I didn’t hate the film but it just felt out of place. It had it’s strong moments but overall just fell flat. After sleeping on it, I keep coming back to the feeling that it isn’t something that I am recommending people to go out of their way to see but I also don’t really think it is a huge failure either. I wonder if a repeat viewing allows me to appreciate it a bit more now that I have accepted the film for what it is. But in the end, it’s not one I am itching to give a repeat view either. To echo the words of my former co-worker, “Tom Cruise doesn’t make bad movies”….but that doesn’t mean he only makes fantastic ones.