Jack Reacher ★★½

As I was standing in line to get tickets to Jack Reacher, I heard someone in front of me say, "I don't know, I don't like Tom Cruise, but I might see it..." Look, Tom Cruise is a deeply crazy human being. This is pretty much verifiable. But to say, as a moviegoer, that you don't like Tom Cruise? Come on. That just seems dishonest to me. Not all of his movies are winners--hell, there's not a single entry in the Mission: Impossible series I'd claim to truly enjoy--but from Risky Business to Collateral, the man has given us a lot, and I'm getting kinda tired of the hate campaign.

Cruise turned 50 in July, and he's getting to the point in his career where he might want to think of returning to prestige pictures, though he has none on his plate. He is a solid presence in Jack Reacher, but the film banks heavily on '90s action movie nostalgia. Looking at his last few films, they all trade in memories of yesteryear: Rock of Ages (which I mercifully avoided) appeared to have little purpose beyond pushing a soundtrack consisting of rehashed '80s "classics," Ghost Protocol obviously continues a franchise which started nearly two decades ago, and even the goofy, underrated Knight and Day seemed like a relic from 1996, back when Cruise and Cameron Diaz blowing shit up was a surefire recipe for success.

Reacher, though, is the most explicit. Despite a few impressive sequences, including a wordless opening that is honestly brilliant and a crackerjack car chase, the movie feels nearly beat for beat like something that was brought out of mothballs after 15 years. Jack Reacher is a militaristic superhero who can out-think and out-gun just about anyone, and there's a condescending sexism in his view of women as objects to protect or slut-shame that feels cringingly outdated.

Director Christopher McQuarrie undeniably has flair, which is why the movie works as well as it does. Otherwise uninteresting scenes are shot in surprising ways and it's all drenched in a cool noir atmosphere. The plot is sort of silly, but that's par for the course. And while Cruise is solid, as is Richard Jenkins in the role of D.A., the rest of the cast doesn't do much. Rosamund Pike is a major weak link as Jenkins' lawyer daughter, whom Cruise uses for info and has zero sexual chemistry with, though her cleavage is prominent enough to warrant an Oscar nomination. The bizarre Werner Herzog plays a bizarre German villain, though it's a bit disappointing that literally anyone with a creepy foreign accent could have done what he does. (I'd really like to know how McQuarrie snagged him.) Meanwhile, Robert Duvall plays himself.

Jack Reacher is not a bad film, and is occasionally thrilling, it's just that it belongs to a different era. I still believe in Cruise and look forward to the day when I don't have to explain why I love the guy. I think Van Helsing is gonna be a big return to form. Ahem.

Arlo liked this review