“Jack Reacher”

Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Joseph Sikora, and Robert Duvall

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie 

The Official UK Poster for "Jack Reacher."
The Official UK Poster for “Jack Reacher.”

Originally my review was dry, terse, and immensely boring.  Not the Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson type of ‘Bored,’ but fairly deathly in its own right.  However, after placing some “Black Keys” on hi-fi and letting the caffeinated beverages fill in where the creative juices left off I began to coalesce a much clearer picture of Tom Cruise’s latest picture, “Jack Reacher.’

Essentially, the film “Jack Reacher” is plays out like a throwback to older movies of the same genre.  It is incredibly reminiscent of older action films and it leaves much to be desired when considering the stellar source material in which it was derived.  “Jack Reacher” is based off of Lee Child’s famous character and series of novels (specifically his novel “One-Shot”), which detail the interesting happenings of Jack Reacher–an ex-MP who wanders the States looking for…well..something.  He always ends up in a predicament, but he always manages to help those in a jam and move on to the next place and task.

In this particular plot, Jack Reacher (played by Tom Cruise) is called by name by an old military ‘buddy,’ Barr (played by Joseph Sikora), who has requested his help.  Barr has been charged with gunning down five people at a park with a sniper rifle.  This scene opens the film and normally would not be troublesome to watch, but after the recent shooting in Connecticut I found this difficult to view.  This most-likely is reactionary and on the whole I do not support film censorship.  Forewarning though…my gut did react.

In between Barr’s supposed shooting, holding, and Jack’s trek, Barr is brutally beaten during transport that renders him useless and leaves him in a coma, so by the time Jack reaches Barr his primary witness/suspect is out of commission.  In pursuit of the truth, Jack Reacher teams up with Barr’s lawyer Helena (played by Rosamund Pike), and begins a thread-lined journey that will eventually lead him to the heart of the truth.

The acting of the supporting cast and large portions of the script (specifically the dialogue) really disappointed me.  Save for Tom Cruise’s portrayal of the idiopathic character, Richard Jenkins as the DA, David Oyelowo as the lead detective, and the incomparable Robert Duvall of the case the acting was atrocious.  Helena’s dialogue was choppy and cliche, which resulted in a flat, inconsistent character that could have been anyone off the streets.  However, that being said, there were far worse performances and writing to be had.  The film’s villain, ‘The Zec’ (played by Werner Herzog) was so incredibly cliched and not at all frightening that I thought for a majority of the film that the casting director had taken head shots from all the worst Bond-villain throwaways that he or she could find and finally settled on the worst of them, The Zec.  Not only was the villainous Zec not imposing he was nonsensical, frightfully dull, and had absolutely no purpose besides being fodder for Tom Cruise in the closing moments.

All-in-all, I thought Tom Cruise was great as Jack Reacher.  His lines were impeccable and the action sequences were tightly shot and added to the tone of the overall film.  However, even Tom Cruise cannot hold up an entire film, and in this instance he proved this sentiment wholeheartedly.  The writers had excellent source material and chose to butcher much of Lee Child’s writing in favor for the old and the cliched…this coupled with the fact that the supporting cast was truly awful really took what could have been a great film and transformed it into a ‘meh’ film.

I give Jack Reacher three-out-of-five stars, and recommend that you wait for this to make its way to DVD before watching it.


Film Noir, and Detective Fiction

All my life I’ve been fascinated with detective fiction.  It seems almost human nature to adhere to the unlawful.  I think that most individuals are spellbound by misdeeds and the felonious.  It intrigues us.  Simplistically put: crime is bad and, if indulged, there are consequences (some more grave then others).  We have the tendency to watch and absorb novels and films that depict crime; it’s an interactive gateway drug that allows people to nearly experience the inexperienceable.

Recently I discovered HBO’sBored to Death.”  What makes the show very appealing, besides the idiosyncratic wit, is the fact that the entire show is founded in classic literature and detective fiction.  Frequent references to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and countless other authors dot each episode creating a writer’s haven of inside jokes.  Along with the references and humor, resides a wonderful plot, surrounding the inane exploits of an unlicensed, Craigslist detective.  This aspect of the show is just as equally founded in classicism as the literary references; “Bored to Death” continually dives into the deep well of the private eye genre.  From the ‘whodunit’ to the ‘inverted detective story’ tried and true methods of detective writing are revealed and then accented with atypical characters and circumstances.  These elements are then interwoven with the literary, and then once again recombined with a myriad of cliché film noir archetypes that creates a truly enthralling half-hour’s worth of television.

Other programs such as “Bones,” “CSI,” and “Psych” all tweak the police procedural to form a distinctively absorbing television show; however, all of which, are founded within the same genre.  Myself included, humans are rebellious by nature and this is but a small extension of that rebellion.

I started working on my own detective novella several months ago and have yet to make any real progress.  I have a couple of okay ideas, and the framework complete, in a purely outlined form, yet I’ve hit the proverbial stonewall.  I know what I want my characters to do next and I even know what to do with them afterwards, yet I’m unsure how to execute the process.  Even though my writing as well as “Bored to Death” and most Raymond Chandler novels are based in detective fiction, how do I tweak it to make it my own?  How do I take the inherent rebellion expressed through watching crime unfold and then to be solved, and fashion it into something unique?  I believe that some clichés are needed in order to redirect the piece back to its foundation; however, some aspects could easily brush by the ‘paying homage’ intention and graze upon plagiarism.  It is a fine line to straddle, but I think if done correctly I could, just as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett did all those years ago, write a unique piece of private eye fiction.

There are some truly great films out there that highlight the private eye, but I would like to see a second coming of detective fiction.  I’ve read some contemporary novels that are spot on, but the nostalgia created from picking up a worn pocket-sized paperback and curling up with a great read, a warm cup of coffee, and a fire a blazing is priceless, and unfortunately lost in modern times.

Why can’t we renew this concept, and curl up with a piece of detective fiction digitized for the Kindle or Nook, a warm latte, and an electric fire set aglow?  This is the question that I ask you.