Friday, December 21, 2012

Tom Cruise Confidently Strides Through Another Action Thriller Formula In JACK REACHER

Opening today at a multiplex near you: 

JACK REACHER (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie, 2012) 

As the tough as nails title character, Tom Cruise confidently strides through this overly familiar yet still solid action thriller formula.

Based on Lee Child’s 2005 bestseller “One Shot,” one of 17 novels featuring the army trained badass Jack Reacher, Christopher McQuarrie’s third film as director, concerns Cruise investigating what, at first, appears to be the random daylight killing of 5 people by a mysterious military sniper at PNC Park in downtown Pittsburgh.

“Get Jack Reacher!” the suspected shooter (Joseph Sikora) writes on a pad instead of confessing right before slipping into a coma, and before you know it, the suspect’s Defense Attorney (the Disney doe-eyed Rosamund Pike) is in Cruise’s company, as they both try to uncover the truth about the killings.

Cruise’s character, a self described drifter living off the grid, arouses suspicion from lead detective (David Oyelowo) and district attorney (Richard Jenkins), who happens to be Pike’s father.

While Pike goes to talk to the families of the victims, Cruise starts sniffing out a conspiracy, especially after being targeted by some thugs in a bar who were paid to put him down. The unflinching Cruise, puts them all down (except for the two that ran), of course, in a street-set fight scene that shows off the characters’ skills. Pretty standard stuff, we’ve seen lots of times before, but still entertaining in a tongue-in-cheek way.

Better is a brutally funny fight set in a tiny skuzzy bathroom, in which Cruise battles a couple of beefy boneheads wielding a baseball bat and a crowbar, but as amusing as this is, it’s a typical example of how the odds are always in our hero’s favor.

Cruise’s chief adversary is the almost as confident Jai Courtney, who’s the henchman of sorts to Werner Herzog, yes that Werner Herzog - the acclaimed German filmmaker, as the one-eyed, one fingered villain (definitely one of the better elements here), so we know exactly who’ll Cruise will have to face down in the construction site climax.

In the midst of the finale, in which Cruise is aided by the grizzled wise-cracking Robert Duvall as the owner of a nearby gun range (their first film together since DAYS OF THUNDER), I had more vivid feelings of déjà vu that I had experienced before in a movie. Its ultra derivative third act was so by-the-numbers, that I swore every single second has been done to death, right down to the dialog and deaths of the bad guys.

Director McQuarrie, who co-wrote VALKRIE also starring Cruise, is working from an established source, but he’s outfitted it to be just another standard movie star action vehicle. It’s got more class and style, largely due to Caleb Deschanel’s gritty yet sleek cinematography, than many of the recent offerings of the genre (the BOURNE re-boot, TAKEN 2, JOHN CARTER, et al), but it never reaches the heights of Sam Mendes excellent 007 entry SKYFALL, my choice for best action film of 2012. 

However, if you’re a fan of Cruise, it’s a must see. Now that it seems criticism of his crazy couch jumping, and scientology silliness, has faded, the man stands tall (yes, I know how short he actually is) as a major presence in the movies. 

As it was in last year’s far superior MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL, it’s again a blast to go along on a ride with him, even through such a cookie-cutter crowd pleaser like this.

More later...

1 comment:

Tom Gooderson-A'Court said...

I was pleasantly surprised by the film. I found little to fault and thought it elevated itself above the generic action thriller. I also enjoyed it more than Skyfall.