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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays: Jack Reacher

GRITTY
All my cards on the table.  Christopher McQuarrie is my favorite writer in the business.  He is responsible for creating Keyser Soze and all the other Usual Suspects.  He is responsible for writing and directing my favorite film of all time, The Way Of The Gun.  He is responsible for uncredited rewrites of films that range from the first two X-Men films to The Aviator.  He wrote the new Wolverine film for James Mangold and Hugh Jackman, assisted on Jack The Giant Killer for Bryan Singer, probably gonna do Mission: Impossible 5 for Tom Cruise, and all of this for good reason.  McQuarrie's dialogue, his storytelling technique, his characters all just sing to me.  He makes modern atypical stories feel GRITTY, pulpy and classic.  So, I was very excited when I heard he was adapting Lee Childs's best selling novel One Shot.  A story about an Ex Military Investigator trying to solve a brutal mass murder.  After watching, I felt completely satisfied.  However, my biases are clearly noted and I knew what I was getting into.  I can see where someone not on the McQuarrie bandwagon and unaware of the actual plot of the film going in could complain.  However, love or hate Jack Reacher, its GRITTINESS is without question.

Advertising can make or break a film.  Done right and you can break opening day records with a film that has Sam Jackson yelling at snakes while on a commercial flight.  Done wrong and you can alienate and mislead your audience with unfulfilled expectations of what they think your film will be.  I personally think the advertising for this film was done wrong.  Watching the trailer for Jack Reacher  makes you think that it is a balls to the wall action film.  It isn't.  Jack Reacher is a mystery thriller with some very GRITTY action scenes seasoned in.  A crappier version of this concept was attempted a few months back with the abismal Alex Cross.  A who-done-it missing the who part and boring us with the done it.  The slightly false advertising is a tough thing to criticize because how do you exactly promote subtlety?  How do you draw in audiences with the promise of fleshed out characters and a gripping story as opposed to fantastic visuals and explosions?  It is kind of the conundrum of the film industry in how to properly bring attention to films like Drive or The American or Jack Reacher.   Needless to say, Jack Reacher has a pretty tight mystery, a believably creepy adversary, a quick pace, and an awesome hero.

The character of Jack Reacher is built up in such a way throughout this film, he begins to supersede even the story itself.  You just want to see what he'll do next.  He's clever, he's uncompromising, he's cold.  He is a 'shortest distance between two points' type of guy like Bourne but comfortable in his own skin like Bond.  The purists of the books point to the casting of Tom Cruise as a huge problem they have with the film before even seeing it.  In the novels, Reacher is supposed to be this hulkingly huge, intimidating guy.  In other words, the opposite physical build of a Tom Cruise.  As a guy who witnessed Michael Bay torch my nostalgic preconceptions in Transformers, I understand a One Shot fan's hesitance at Cruise.  However, if you're worried if Cruise delivers the intimidation, rest easy.  Cruise can play a scary badass.  Or have you not seen Collateral?  His performance is solid and his intensity makes up for any height inadequacies he may have.  Sure the casting of a Thomas Jane or a Jeffrey Dean Morgan might have been better visually for the character.  However, the film would probably not have been made with them attached.  I'm just grateful Tom Cruise is still interested in getting films like these made and still giving it his all in these roles.  Along with Cruise, there are some polished performances from Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, and Richard Jenkins.  Werner Herzog, for his tiny amount of screen time, will make your skin crawl.

The action that is in Jack Reacher, is painful to watch.  Not because it is bad, but because McQuarrie makes you feel every punch, kick, crash, and bullet.  McQuarrie has ties to the Navy Seals and has shot probably the most realistic gun fight in cinema history already.  So, he knows his way around an action scene.  The great thing about his action scenes, however, is that there seems to always be a story in them.  It isn't just mindless violence.  Each blow or shot has a reason behind it and an arc to get there.  And in light of recent events in Connecticut, the opening scene provides perhaps the most gasp worthy suspenseful moment in the film.

Jack Reacher will probably get lost in the holiday shuffle with Hobbits and Djangos roaming about.  However, if you want some suspense and GRIT to top off your egg nog...hop on a bus...pack light...real light...Get Jack Reacher...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong.

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