2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
“Jack Reacher” has a lot of things going for it, but a nuanced script and reasonable character development aren’t among them. The movie – based on the Lee Child novel “One Shot” – revolves around its title character, a former military police officer who plays by his own rules.
Set in Pittsburgh, the film starts with a mass shooting where a trained sniper methodically assassinates five people, then drives away unnoticed. Police arrive at the crime scene shortly after the killings and obtain evidence leading them to a former U.S. Army soldier named James Barr (Joseph Sikora). Under interrogation, Barr refuses to talk, but he scrawls “Get Jack Reacher” on a legal pad. Intrigued, a police investigator named Emerson (David Oyelowo) and district Attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins) attempt to find the man, only to learn that Reacher (Cruise) went off the grid shortly after completing a distinguished military career. Just when Rodin and Emerson decide that Reacher is a ghost, he walks through the door with a swagger.
These events are played out in the most melodramatic fashion possible, and they set the tone for everything that follows. Despite the fact that “Jack Reacher” is set in the real world, there is nothing realistic about it. The characters are painted with broad strokes that make them feel like comic book figures, and even their quirks are treated with bluster rather than style. For instance, viewers learn that Reacher has a photographic memory because he calls attention to it at every opportunity.
Viewers also learn that Reacher is a tough guy because he walks around acting invincible, and anyone who messes with him winds up in the hospital. The movie’s bad guys have slightly more depth, but this isn’t properly explored because director Christopher McQuarrie (“The Way of the Gun”) doesn’t give them enough screen time.
McQuarrie is, however, good at moving the plot forward. Despite the lightweight characterizations, “Jack Reacher” moves. The breathless pace will allow some viewers to overlook things like bad dialogue and nonsensical plotting, and there are worse guilty pleasures. The question is: “Why bother with this film when there are so many thrillers that are just as smart as they are fast-moving?”
The DVD release of “Jack Reacher” doesn’t have extra features, but the Blu-ray comes with multiple making-of bits and an audio commentary with Cruise and McQuarrie.