Netflix UK film review: Jack Reacher
Ivan Radford | On 29, Aug 2013Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog
Watch Jack Reacher online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Amazon Instant Video
“What do you do, Jack?” “I’m a Reacher. I reach.”
That’s what fans expected when Jack Reacher’s casting was announced: 90 minutes of tiny Tom Cruise walking around reaching for things. Straining for food in the cupboard. Stretching for magazines on the top shelf. And, in a climactic bout of domestic fisticuffs, a whole sequence dedicated to him trying to pick up a fork from the middle of the dining room table.
The truth is less exciting. But while Tom Cruise may be shorter than his literary counterpart, it’s hard to see what the fuss was about: from the moment he steps onto the screen and flexes his fists, Tom is Jack Reacher. Not that that’s hard, mind. Jack is one of pulp fiction’s more generic male roles. An ex-soldier with no real emotional ties, his signature character trait is that he’s really good at everything. He’s a power to be reckoned with, which is intimidating, but the only reason we remember his name here is because it’s on the poster (or DVD cover) in large letters.
The result is a virtually invincible hero – a force so unstoppable he makes all the bad guys look like Chris Martin from Coldplay (Jai Courtney). Add that to a clunky plot worthy of a bad 80s action flick (Jack’s former army buddy goes on a killing spree, prompting him to interfere in the police investigation) and a two-dimensional use of Rosamund Pike, and Jack Reacher falls several feet short of his lofty reputation. So why bother watching at all?
The answer lies in one of the film’s other bizarre casting choices: Werner Herzog as the villain, Zec Chelovek. He skulks around with half his fingers missing and a gimpy contact lens, wheezing threats and spouting philosophy in a Bavarian accent. He’s as creepy as he is amusing.
Fortunately, Herzog’s hyper-foreign bad guy isn’t the only funny thing on screen. Unfortunately, some of those laughs are unintentional. Christopher McQuarrie’s debut direction is sound, shooting the chilling introduction and an enjoyable car chase with a steady eye, but even with the help of Robert Duvall and a sturdy David Oyelowo, the occasionally-too-silly script is as bland as lukewarm tea.
And that’s why all the fuss over Cruise is pointless. It makes no difference who plays the eponymous lead. He slots into the generic role as smoothly as all the other parts of the film. Like Lee Child’s novels, Jack Reacher is a fun thriller, but you’ll forget it the moment you turn off your TV. Which, in a strange kind of way, means McQuarrie deserves a lot of credit: entertaining yet unmemorable, Jack Reacher is arguably the most faithful literary adaptation of 2013.
Jack Reacher is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.