Jack Reacher (2012)

Obviously this blog is in its infancy. The idea is to review films available on iTunes or at Redbox. But what films? Each individual Redbox plays host to a finite number of movies, but you could rent a different film from iTunes every day for a year and not scratch the surface of what is available. So I decided to begin with a basic outline. Every week I will review the number one film on both iTunes and Redbox, and then maybe another movie that strikes my fancy.

Unfortunately the number one film in Redbox this week is Jack Reacher.

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Plodding, conventional, sexist and (worst of all) BORING, this Tom Cruise vehicle inexplicably made a decent earning at the box office and appears set to make even more as a rental. It’s about a rogue ex-military cop named, you guessed it, Jack Reacher. Why is he a rogue? Hell if I know. There might be an explanation somewhere in this 90 minute snooze-a-thon (based on a book most frequently purchased in airport bookstores), but I missed it. Probably because halfway through I got up and started cleaning my kitchen.

Jack Reacher. A movie so dreary it makes scrubbing dishes look fun.

The film opens with a lone gunman murdering five people with six shots. All were civilians. None of them seemed related to one another. The gunman is quickly apprehended. Under interrogation all he will say is, “Get Jack Reacher.”

So far, so good. The opening effectively taps into our post-9/11 (and Colorado theater, Sandy Hook and Boston Marathon) fears of the sociopath living among us. Then Tom Cruise shows up and the film grinds to a halt.

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Remember how much fun Top Gun was? The dogfights, the snarky dialogue, the inexplicable yet oh so delicious volleyball scene? Cruise used to have such wonderful scene presence. Even in his more serious films like A Few Good Men, he was still entertaining to watch. Where is that Tom Cruise now? His Jack Reacher is dull even when he’s dodging bullets. He’s like a constipated block of wood.

The plot unfolds as such plots do, with twists and turns and terse dialogue like “I was born in October. When I get to my birthday I’m pulling the trigger. 1, 2. . .” It’s no surprise that the lone gunman isn’t actually a lone gunman, though honestly I never understood how the villain’s scheme fit together. In a better film, that wouldn’t matter. For example the plot in the Humphrey Bogart classic The Big Sleep famously does not make sense. Even Raymond Chandler couldn’t explain how it all added up. But that’s okay because we have Bogart and Lauren Bacall to watch. Tom Cruise is no Humphrey Bogart.

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    Rosamund Pike is capable as an idealistic defense lawyer fighting to give the gunman a fair trial. However the standout female performance is by Alexia Fast as a girl named Sandy. Sandy is significant because her appearance marks the beginning of an ugly undercurrent of sexism that runs through Jack Reacher. I’m willing to accept Rosamund Pike bouncing around in a push-up bra because this is an action movie and I admire her work in other films (Barney’s Version! See it!), but with Sandy something more unpleasant surfaces. We first meet her when she approaches Jack Reacher in a bar and propositions him. He promptly calls her a slut. Five men appear, claim to be her brothers and take Jack outside to beat him up. As they leave Sandy follows, saying, “I don’t mind the sight of blood.” Jack replies, “When it means you’re not pregnant.”

Hisssss.

What kind of junior high nonsense is this? Of course she turns out to be a pansy for the bad guys, but after she later (SPOILER) pays the ultimate price, you have to wonder why the filmmakers treat her with such disrespect. Reacher treats her horribly, and later there is a completely nonchalant attitude by all the characters regarding her murder. Apparently, forward woman equals slut equals worthless. It comes back to the traditional Hollywood formula: men are bolstered by their sexual relationships; women are demeaned by any sexual encounter outside of a monogamous relationship.

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Jack Reacher isn’t well written enough to involve its audience, but it isn’t dumb enough to enjoy mocking. It drags Tom Cruise further down in his rapidly tail-spinning career, and while the other actors will escape unscathed it isn’t a film they will brag about in the future. I wouldn’t spend $3 to rent it. I probably wouldn’t even watch it if it was free on cable. It’s the worst kind of action movie– a tedious waste of time.

1/5 stars (and only because one of the villain’s goons looked enough like Macklemore that I did a Google search to verify it wasn’t him)

Next: Cloud Atlas

(I don’t own any images or quotes associated with this film.)

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