Fanboy Flick Pick: Jack Reacher, Tonally Confused Creature
Please note: the term “flick pick” is an acknowledgement of fandom interest and not necessarily an endorsement.
As the more highbrow world debates the morality of how torture is depicted in a certain Oscar-bait film, the new Tom Cruise action-star vehicle presents us with a similar quandary – and the filmmakers too, judging by how quickly the premiere was cancelled in the wake of recent tragedy. We begin with a sniper picking off five seemingly random civilians; later in the story, we are made to hear their backstories and feel for them as fully dimensional people who can never realize their potential now.
So how to jell this with a scene where, in a confined bathroom, two criminal henchman try to beat Tom Cruise senseless, yet because of limited space and poor coordination, they end up repeatedly beaning each other with a crowbar and a baseball bat, Three Stooges style? The gunshots in Jack Reacher may be loud, echoing CRACKs like real life rather than Hollywood squibs, and the fights are made to feel brutally bone-crushing. But then come the wisecracks and the incongruent goofiness – are we meant to wince, or laugh? Because it would be brilliant if both were intended and both evinced, but the viewer gets the feeling of indecision here. This isn’t a master of tone-straddling like Roman Polanski directing; it’s Christopher McQuarrie, best known as screenwriter of The Usual Suspects, whose only other movie as director was the similarly confused Way of the Gun. Normally, it might be easy to take the moments of brutality with a grain of salt or four, but in the wake of a real-life shooting spree, a fake one is inherently less escapist. That’s not the film’s fault, entirely, but a clearer vision would not go amiss in any case.