Jack Reacher: The Worst

Sorry for the brief absence. I wish I had an excuse, but I basically got drunk and then lazy and then busy. I don’t even know why I’m telling you that. It just makes me sound like a jerk. Anway, while I was very busy not posting here I went and saw Jack Reacher. I’m not really sure why. I had a free movie ticket. A friend told me it was terrible. It was raining. The stars aligned and I found myself with an oversized drink and popcorn, in a room full of dudes, watching Tom Cruise be a muscle-bound pocket rocket pretending he’s taller than the woman they cast alongside him. Believe me when I say, it was awful.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Jack Reacher character before, allow me to enlighten you. Jack Reacher is the protagonist in a series of books by a British author named Jim Grant, who operates under the pen name of Lee Child. The books are a bunch of boy’s-own detective type stories and are alright if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess. There are something like 17 of these damn books, so you can imagine that the backstory for Jack Reacher is fairly thorough. Keeping it short: Reacher was like a super-cop for the military police. Upon being discharged from the military he became a drifter, hitching-hiking or riding Greyhound buses across the US. Naturally, he finds trouble. Or trouble finds him. Or some other cliche about trouble. Anyway, they all pan out in much the same way, with Reacher fighting off a bunch of dudes and then walking off into the sunset, possibly leaving some busty lass with her heart all aflutter. Pretty standard stuff.

So the film Jack Reacher is an adaptation of Child’s 2005 novel, One Shot. Basically a maniac with a gun kills six people in what seems like an open and shut case, until the accused scrawls “GET JACK REACHER” on a piece of paper. Shenanigans and fisty cuffs ensue. Yada yada. Walking into the cinema, knowing all of this, I was prepared for the movie to be bad. What I did not understand was exactly how bad the movie was going to be. To start off with, Reacher’s character is not in the least bit likeable. Don’t get me wrong: I love a charming asshole. In fact I think most of the problem with my dating history lies in the fact that I am almost exclusively attracted to men who fall into the “charming asshole” category. But Reacher isn’t actually charming. He’s just an asshole. I can’t even really begin to isolate specific elements of his character that make him so unlikeable, because it’s just such an overwhelming impression. The introductory shot of features him sprawled on the bed of a cheap motel while some faceless woman puts her underwear on. (Out of interest: how do you think they credit the actress that did that? “Faceless shag number 1”? How much was she paid for the days work? What’s her story?) He refuses to answer questions, or be in any way helpful. He’s generally obnoxious to everyone and sometimes just kills people because it suits his idea of justice. From what I gather, the audience is supposed to just immediately grasp why he eventually chooses to provide help in any scenario based on the fact that he stares into the middle distance and clenches and unclenches his jaw a bunch of times.

I’ve heard of Reacher’s character as belonging to the “hard-boiled” detective genre and frankly, I’m a little insulted. This is a hard-boiled detective:

Be still, my beating heart.

This is not a hard-boiled detective:

This is a man in a plaid shirt.

Your hard-boiled detective gets to be the way he is through years of alcoholism and too much time spent on the wrong side of the law. (And it’s really hot and I’m super into Bogart and just shut up, OK? Because… reasons.) By contrast, Reacher’s main monologue tells us that he spent all his youth “fighting for freedom” and when he came back to see what that freedom meant, he didn’t think it was worth anything. All of this is, of course, delivered whilst looking into a grey-lit office building at some depressed workers or something. CLICHES ABOUND.

Anyway, aside from a completely unlikeable main character, my other main problem with this film was its attitude towards women (which the audience full of 20-something year old dude-bros seemed to find HIGH-larious). There is the obligatory central female character who is “smart and sassy”, but not in the sense that she actually does anything. Basically, she gets flustered whenever Tom Cruise takes his shirt off, which confuses me because this is not 1986 and this is not Top Gun and he is so clearly sucking it in that it’s actually a little embarrassing. Sometimes, she figures stuff out but it’s usually because Reacher has pointed it out to her. I can’t even remember what her name was. (Just looked it up: the character was Helen and she’s played byRosamund Pike, who I didn’t think I’d seen anywhere but it turns out she was in The Libertine and Die Another Day. The more you know.) So she exists and is a character and there is very little else that can be said about her but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

The one that really irked me, however, was the younger girl, Sandy. Sandy is used as bait to lure Reacher into a bar fight. He doesn’t really take the bait, but he does take the opportunity to tell Sandy that he couldn’t afford her. When she tells him she isn’t a hooker, he then says, “Then I really couldn’t afford you.” CLASSIC LINE. Poor Sandy doesn’t get the joke and keeps telling him that she isn’t a hooker. To which he replies, “I know. A hooker would’ve gotten the joke.” ANOTHER CLASSIC REACHER LINE. Yada yada. Bar fight, bar fight. Turns out people are hunting Reacher. Jump 30 mins down the storyline, turns out that Sandy is actually “a smart kid” who does accounts and dates drug dealers. She offers to sleep with him and he valiantly turns her down but Reacher is suddenly all protective of her and her death is used as a motivation for him to go on a car chase/ killing spree. I dunno. Maybe it makes more sense in the book? I lost track of it somewhere in the middle but the rest of the audience seemed to like it. (“I dunno, dude. I just really liked the bit where he didn’t call her a hooker.”)

The film ends with all the gunfire and vicious fist fights you need. The Russian bad guy is killed. (Of course the bad guy is Russian. The bad guy is always Russian.) All is settled in the name of “Justice”. Anyway, I walked away shaking my head. Maybe it’s cos I haven’t read the books. Maybe it’s cos it’s not the kind of movie that is marketed towards me. Maybe some people loved it. But maybe I’m right and it is the stupidest thing you’ll watch all year.

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6 thoughts on “Jack Reacher: The Worst

  1. I have read two of the books, specifically the first one ‘Killing Floor’ and then ‘One Shot’ (because of the movie) and put simply, Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. Not even close. I am going to watch this freaking awful movie to see how badly they adapted it then I can weigh in a bit further. In the meantime, go watch Double Jeopardy. That is one beautiful noir film. Billy Wilder wins.

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