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Let’s Review Jack Reacher!

As the Culture Blues Intern, it is my duty to record the post-screening discussions of my editors, so that they're not required to "sell out" and write actual cogent criticism.

"I've been working out, I'm huge!"

I’m helping Jeff come up with a third act for his future Black List spec script Latter Day Dunks. Oddly, this brainstorming only involves me shooting Nerf basketballs at the hoops on the wall, and Jeff violently swatting them back at me. Jeremiah enters.

Jeremiah White:  Lots of work on our end of year lists getting done in here, I see.

Jeff Hart:  Psshhh. Whatevs. I’ve got a million dollar screenplay cooking here.

Jeremiah White:  Oh? What about?

Jeff Hart:  Former NBA superstar Shawn Bradley. It’s a bio pic. Or maybe he’s a detective. I haven’t decided.

Jeremiah White:  Uh huh. And who do you envision playing the role of the 7’6” center?

Jeff Hart:  Tom Cruise, obviously. DUDE IS HUGE.

Jeremiah White:  Are we really still hung up on the whole ‘Tom Cruise isn’t big enough to play Jack Reacher’ thing?

Jeff Hart:  I wasn’t initially. I’ve never read any of Lee Child’s books and don’t have any particular affinity for his refrigerator-sized genius detective, but the size disparity is hard to ignore when it seems clear writer/director Christopher McQuarrie didn’t make any changes to the script for his pocket-sized star. They’re working off the version written for Mickey Rourke.

Jeremiah White:  Well, I think one change is that Jack Reacher is short. That’s a flaw he doesn’t have in the books, and now it’s his one flaw on screen.

Jeff Hart:  But no one knows he’s short! Despite literally every other character in the movie towering over Cruise, he still says a lot of big man things that come off as silly and just make me want to pinch his little cheeks. Oh, and then there’s a major plot point which involves him getting singled out because of his inherent physicality. If I was looking for a guy that could punch through a brick wall, Tom Cruise would not be high on my list.

Jeremiah White:  He did puff up his chest some. At least give him that.

Jeff Hart:  Yes, he’s got a distinctive Bruno Sammartino old-man chest going. Good for him!

Jeremiah White:  I have read the first Reacher novel, and I like Child’s creation a lot. With his mix of military training and investigative skills, he’s like the love child of action movies and cop dramas, two things I love. Cruise’s size doesn’t bother me as much as the way he looks and carries himself. Reacher strikes me as a very gruff character. But even when Cruise is talking tough and saying little, it’s almost impossible for him to repress his movie star looks and charisma (they don’t even try with the former).

Jeff Hart:  As far as adaptations of crime novels go, I figure this is a pretty good one. It relies on some pretty heavy plot contrivances and definitely won’t work out your brain, but it’s a freaking beach read, right? It’s sort of fun in its predictability. And the fight scenes are good.

Jeremiah White:  I completely agree. McQuarrie has recreated the experience of reading this kind of book perfectly. The mystery unravels gradually to keep you reading (which is much harder than keeping you watching), the violence is fast and brutal, there are some silly, cringe-worthy moments between characters. It’s a decent diversion while it lasts, but not something you’re going to think about too much after. It's a "beach watch."

Jeff Hart:  It’s just a dumb action-thriller with no particular aspirations other than establishing Cruise as a huge man above moral reproach  - and maybe I’m just oversensitive since last week - but I think it’s worth pointing out that Jack Reacher opens with a pretty horrific (but wonderfully staged? urgh) mass shooting. Topical, right? Later in the film, McQuarrie does a little vignette about who all the victims are and while, yes, this is a detective story plot device, it was one I found very emotionally effective. McQuarrie deglamorizes his opening shooting by spending time detailing the lives of its victims, rather than just letting them be typical action movie collateral damage. Or is that giving him too much credit?

Jeremiah White:  Well, I’m all for giving McQuarrie too much credit (Parker and Longbaugh 4 life!). You’re clearly reading more into this sequence than you would if it had come out a year ago, with good reason, but there’s no doubt that Reacher takes violence more seriously than a lot of movies at the multiplex.

Jeff Hart:  Which isn’t very difficult.

Jeremiah WhiteReacher is also interesting because it clearly leaves things open for sequels, but because of the episodic nature of the property, there is none of the holding back that plagues many franchise-starters these days. This is the anti-Dark Knight trilogy. If the only goal was to establish Cruise as a viable star of the Jack Reacher franchise, I’d say it was a success. If they stick to the spirit of the books and set him off on a completely new adventure each time, I’d gladly sit down for a new one every couple of years.

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