Jack Reacher

A forgettably generic, silly, implausibly contrived mystery-thriller, Jack Reacher is nonetheless watchable and even enjoyable for starring the still remarkably gorgeous Tom Cruise, who retains a fascination that shines even through the most lackluster sorts of material.  He is at no point entirely convincing as the secretive, laconic drifter of the title, a man who moves from town to town with only one set of nondescript clothes and who, like Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad, will “be there” when trouble necessitates.

This adventure has Jack coming to the unlikely aid of psychotic Iraq war veteran James Barr (Joseph Sikora) who, in an apparent open-and-shut case, is the prime suspect in a seemingly random shooting spree.  Teaming with easy-on-the-eyes public defender Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), he has little difficulty getting himself into pickles that involve exciting car action and entertainingly cartoonish hand-to-hand combat.  He unearths an ornate conspiracy involving enigmatic one-eyed villain “the Zec” (Werner Herzog) and soon finds himself the subject of unfriendly attention from the police and various inept criminal minions.

Whether or not the film is a worthwhile waste of time will ultimately be determined by each viewer’s taste or distaste for Tom Cruise, who makes or breaks the innocuous Jack Reacher accordingly.  3.5 of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Jack Reacher is:

8. Anti-Christian.  A murderous thug (Vladimir Sizov) wears a gaudy crucifix.

7. Anti-slut.  Jack has standards.  A woman loose in her associations meets an unenviable end.

6. Anti-military/antiwar.  Four types of people enter the military: those following in a family tradition; patriots; people who need work; and those looking for a legal venue in which to commit murder.  Private security contractors in Iraq engage in something dubbed a “rape rally”.  Just as disillusionment with American activity in Vietnam trickled into the cinema with a proliferation of films about mentally unhinged veterans bringing the war home in Motor Psycho, The Ravager, Taxi Driver, Cannibal Apocalypse, First Blood, and others, the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are giving rise to a cinema of the Iraq psycho as evidenced by Savages, Jack Reacher, and probably more to come.

5. Gun-ambivalent.  The private gun owners who frequent Robert Duvall’s shooting range are characterized as poor marksmen and “touchy” about their Second Amendment rights.  Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me” plays at the range, reinforcing the brutish hick image for gun rights advocates.  Duvall, though he gives Jack some very useful information and tactical assistance, exhibits poor judgment of his patrons’ character when he says he “always liked” the insane Barr.

4. Leftist.  Cops never vote for Democrats, Jack suggests (though others might disagree).  The corrupt police in Jack Reacher are therefore, one assumes, supposed to be evil Republicans.  Public defenders are idealists working to protect the innocent citizenry.

3. Anti-police.  Police are corrupt and allow a suspect to be beaten brutally while in custody.  When Jack is wrongly suspected of a murder and hotly pursued by squad cars and a police helicopter, a friendly black man (who presumably understands from personal experience that police will frequently hound an innocent man) lends him his cap to help him make himself inconspicuous in a crowd.

2. State-skeptical.  Government pork spending is at the root of the conspiracy.

1. Pro-vigilante.  With police like these, who needs criminals?

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