Jack Reacher (US, 2012)

Because I say so!

Because I say so!

It was happenstance, not choice, that led me to watch Jack Reacher, which is (was?) probably a Tom Cruise attempt to get a franchise going. Its $80m domestic gross probably wouldn’t have been enough but the $137m international take may make it a viable proposition. It was reported (here) that Paramount banked on $250m worldwide before a sequel would be green lighted so maybe it won’t happen; I hope it won’t not because it’s a bad film – it’s a passable thriller – but because of its execrable politics.

I haven’t read any of Lee Child’s novels but I guess the vigilante-justice element is true to the source material. Cruise, of course, plays the ‘good’ guy but is apparently so paranoid that he lives his life off the ‘grid’. He only owns one shirt, which we see him washing in a small sink. This is rather pathological, the only Americans that need to live off the ‘grid’ are, I think, whistleblowers. Reacher, of course, sees things that cops, and the eye candy lawyer (Rosamund Pike), don’t and gets to the truth of the matter. Pike is joined by Brit David Oyelowo who, in what’s become a tradition, takes the role of a bad guy. In 1930s Hollywood the upper class British accent signified class, now the Brits are hired to play villains. Though, in this case, the uber villain is played by Werner Herzog who does enliven the film with a portrayal of demented psychosis; learned, no doubt, whilst making Fitzcarraldo (West Germany-Peru, 1982).

Herzog’s The Zec makes one mistake too many, he tells Reacher that prison will be ‘cushy’; cue extra-judicial assassination before Reacher disappears  off ‘the grid’. He didn’t even have time for sex with Pike’s glamorous lawyer. Hopefully he’ll stay off the grid; is it too much to hope that the relative box office failure in North America is a result of disgust with the extra-judicial killings via drones? If so, why so popular elsewhere? Because that’s how the world expects Americans to act?

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2 Responses

  1. Nick – I really can’t (as a Lee Child/Jack Reacher fan) let you get away with this. I have read all the books (including the latest) – Tom Cruise as “our” hero was a bit of a shock (you may recall discussion at the time that he is slightly shorter than the book version, although probably as muscular!) but actually the film was better than I expected:
    – You may not want to reveal “happenstance” (what, no other film on release) but maybe you harbour a secret fascination…..
    – Ok, “passable thriller” is fair, but surely you can’t criticise any film for it’s politics….
    – Based on the Snowden whistleblowing, living off the grid is now an interesting concept if you want to engage with anything via phones or internet, but I’m not sure it’s pathological – there are some interesting comments in the novels about his motivation, including how “possessions” tie you to the system. I would think lots of folk (maybe particularly in the US) would identify with his desire for “freedom” (as an aside, the UK’s general silence to Snowden’s revelations is quite astonishing – but see Henry Porter in yesteday’s Guardian)
    – I couldn’t sanction the extra-juidicial killing that Reacher delivers, but are you going to damn any film that portays people taking the law into their own hands? Afraid I think it’s unlikely that the box office failure is related to US dislike of drones (although interesting how the debate is developing on the US and Syria, which if anything is about taking action without endangering US lives)
    – Reacher has had “relationships” in several of his books – I liked the fact that he didn’t in this film, a nice tension as I suspect many viewers would have expected it
    – In the latest novel, he does have a relationship; he also has a lot of problems staying “off grid”

  2. Hi Mick – blimey you like to get your ‘money’s worth’ of points in.
    ‘Happenstance’ – me mum wanted to see it.

    WHY CAN’T I CRITICISE FILMS FOR THEIR POLITICS? (Sorry, shouting). I don’t expect progressive politics from Hollywood but the extra-judicial shooting made it ‘execrable’. There are instances (the films escape me for the moment) where I would agree with extra-judicial killing but when he’s caught the guy and he’s going to prison (which was only ‘cushy’ for The Zec cos of what he suffered elsewhere – Siberia was it?) then there’s no reason to kill the bastard.

    I certainly wasn’t commenting on Lee Child’s books (me mum’s a fan hence she wanted to see it) and I agree my drones point is fanciful. As to living off the grid… Yes, the public’s apathy is astonishing regarding Snowden’s revelations: ‘if you’ve go nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear’ seems to be the mindblowingly stupid consensus. I guess it was the sight of Reacher washing his one shirt in the sink that I found risible rather than being ‘off the grid’.

    Going to the Ramsbottom folk festival this weekend?

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