Jack Reacher

jack-reacher-poster-internationalThe film adaptation Jack Reacher is guilty of a lot of crimes, but perhaps its largest is that of bad timing.  This thriller looses the mystery of a mass shooting in which five innocent victims wind up the target of a deranged assassin one fateful morning.  How this eerie resemblance to real life of late hasn’t blown up bigger in reaction to the film boggles the cortex.

From the picture’s outset, the audience knows the identity of the real perpetrator, but investigators follow a concrete trail of breadcrumbs leading directly to a military sniper, James Barr (Joseph Sikora), complete with a mental history that resulted in the cold-blooded murders of four army cohorts.  Barr demands the feds find someone to assistant his defender, Helen (Rosamund Pike) in order to find the truth.  He calls on Jack Reacher, a military cop-drifter, living entirely off the grid.  The audience only views the back of Mr. Reacher’s noggin for his first few scenes.  Why is he so secretive?  Because he’s a hard-boiled limb-snapper with nothing to lose.  You think he’s a hero?  He is not a hero.  He doesn’t care about the law.  He doesn’t care about proof.  He only cares about what’s right.  Yes, you’ve seen the ads.  They might as well have said, “Dear bad guys: he will find you.  He will kill you.”

The noggin belongs to superstar Tom Cruise, whose career has bounced around the building blocks for the last eight years.  They love him.  They hate him.  They tolerate him.  They love him again.  They hate him again.  Luckily none of that matters as Cruise has always brought 100 percent to his work—even made-for-cable thrills such as Jack Reacher, which gloriously miscasts Cruise, drives through cliches with a snowplow, runs about twenty minutes too long, and somehow manages to still reward audiences with plenty of bang for their buck.

Even though Cruise would be considered pint-sized against author Lee Child’s hulking intimidator from his Reacher novel series, the actor still brings charisma and believability (as far as any believability can go in this film) to the part.  Did I believe he could lay waste to five perps bare-handed and single-handedly?  Absolutely.  Do I think he can take a baseball bat to the back of the skull and still maneuver?  Hmmm.

JACK REACHERBut let’s be honest here—Cruise blows up any action movie he touches in a good way, even when he doesn’t belong.  Jack Reacher is a prime fit for him if we didn’t already know this was a franchise originally intended for a Dwayne Johnson-type.  Once audiences get past that glare, they can settle into a grimy thriller from writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, a frequent collaborator with Director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) and now of course Cruise (the upcoming All You Need is Kill and Mission Impossible 5).

McQuarrie lets Reacher settle in a placid violence.  The action often results in painfully brutal imagery.  The shooting.  The fisticuffs.  Then there’s the menace of his villains, Jai Courtney (the actual shooter) and the brilliant insanity of filmmaker Werner Herzog who steps in front of the camera as the maniacal, foggy-eyed embodiment of evil referred to as the Zec.  The performances throughout the film range from fair, to good, to wild.  It’s actually all quite fascinating.  Then McQuarrie underscores the events with unmistakable dread.  Somehow his movie escaped with a PG-13 rating probably because there’s little blood.  But the violence is blunt, brutal and lingering.  Think Taken and Bourne on a depressant, in which the action doesn’t cut and jump around to a head-spin.  Instead McQuarrie let’s the moments of violence build and linger.

This is where the writer-director somehow blends the formulaic proceedings of the plot with the odd dose of casting and mixes in his bitter penchant for the deep-rooted cold, making Jack Reacher an unexpected kick to the gut.  Is Reacher, the enforcer, a hero?  The question is never exactly answered, but I’m guessing as a potential franchise for Cruise, the powers that be will think so.

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Days of Thunder

Days of ThunderTop Gun Days of Thunder, from director Tony Scott, is a pretty decent action/drama movie about a plucky, hotshot fighter jet pilot NASCAR driver, played by Tom Cruise, and his bitter journey to exorcize a few personal demons in the cockpit on the race track while trying to balance a newfound romance with a pretty astrophysicist doctor.  Of course there’s a healthy dose of competition from his frenemy-with-a-clever-nickname Iceman Rowdy, and a healthy dose of high-speed flight race scenes, a crash or two, and enough close calls to have your nails digging into the seat.

Ok, so it’s not the most original movie out there, but Days of Thunder is a perfectly passable by-the-numbers late-80’s dude flick.  Tom Cruise plays our unfortunately-named protagonist Cole Trickle with all the vintage Tom Cruiseness you could hope for.  He knows he’s one of the biggest stars in the world, and from time to time the frame can barely contain the sheer amount of smugness on display.  Filling out the cast is a couple of acting giants–the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Trickle’s Luke Skywalker, Nicole Kidman as the no-way-she’s-old-enough-to-have-completed-med-school doctor, and even some B-listers like Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes, and Fred Thompson.  The movie is kind of a who’s who for movie stars in 1990, and for that reason alone, Days of Thunder is worth watching.

Days of Thunder: Cruise, Kidman

Now that's how you do product placement.

The basic idea here is as predictable as one would expect, and if you’re in doubt even for one moment how things will end up when the credits roll, it’s back to movie-watching-101 for you.  Our hero Trickle (it’s hard to even write that without laughing out loud) starts off as a disgraced race car driver eager to get back in the saddle, while his would-be mentor wants nothing to do with race car driving anymore.  But sure enough, Cruise is soon cruising (get it?  No?  You didn’t watch the trailer, did you?) around NASCAR tracks at 190 mph, dodging tires and sparring with rednecks for the elusive checkered flag.  His old mentor gets on his case for taking too many risks, and–you guessed it–Cruise’s newfound racing career is brought to a sudden halt–a trickle, if you will–when he crashes one too many times and ends up in the hospital along with racing nemesis Rowdy.

Will the two solve their differences?  Will the pretty doctor fall for the crazy scientologist?  Will Robert Duvall ever have a role as good as Tom Hagen?  It’s not rocket science, people.  It’s not even finger painting.  But it is actually a lot of fun.  Watching stock cars zoom around, crash into walls, and explode into tiny bits is a joy to behold, and it’s fun watching these A-Listers overact all the way to the bank.  Tony Scott’s fast-paced overblown directorial style is in full effect here, and as long as there’s a bucket of popcorn and 12-pack of Mello Yello handy there’s really nothing no way not to mindlessly enjoy Days of Thunder.


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