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Will Tom Cruise's 'Jack Reacher' Kick Ass Or Jump The Couch?

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by The Playlist Staff
October 18, 2012 1:00 PM
19 Comments
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Last Christmas, Tom Cruise proved, after a difficult few years, that he's still got it with "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," a surprisingly thrilling actioner that proved to be, by some distance, the best film of the franchise so far, which further paid off by becoming the biggest movie of the season.

Can Cruise and backers Paramount pull off the same trick this Christmas? They must certainly hope they have a chance, after moving this year's Cruise actioner "Jack Reacher," the first of a hopeful franchise, from February 2013 into the already crammed holiday season. After taking a look at some of the other big fall movies -- "Lincoln," "Flight," "Skyfall," "Wreck-It Ralph," "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables" and "This Is 40" -- we've got Drew Taylor and Oliver Lyttelton squaring off on the pros and cons of "Jack Reacher" below. Let us know if you're excited about it in the comments section below.

"Jack Reacher"

The Case For:
In over a dozen crackerjack thrillers (all of them best-sellers) by British author Lee Child, Jack Reacher, a nearly seven-foot-tall, tough-as-nails ex-military policeman, has investigated murder and mayhem across this great country of ours. Whether combating terrorists in New York City or meth dealers on the great plains, Reacher, armed with only his travel toothbrush, ATM card, and the clothes on his back, manages to right wrongs wherever he stops to hang his hat. He's a do-gooder drifter and, despite being a total brute, an irresistible hero, more morally nebulous and identifiably wounded than the detectives that typically anchor this kind of book series. Oh, and now he's coming to the big screen!

"Jack Reacher," based off the novel "One Shot" (the ninth novel), is the first big-screen adventure for Reacher, and controversial, for sure, to even the most dedicated "Reacher Creatures." The reason is the casting, of course. Tom Cruise, who could get carried around in a tea cup if he so desired, was cast as the hulking Reacher, which is certainly a strange choice, at least initially. It's hard to imagine anyone physically embodying Reacher as he is on the page, save for maybe Liam Neeson, but he's got enough action franchises on his plate at the moment. And Cruise is able to capture that aura of an American loner that is essential to the Reacher essence. We have to remember, also, that the last time this kind of literary adaptation uproar sprung up it also involved Cruise, when he was cast as the villainous Lestat in the Neil Jordan adaptation of Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire." And, of course, it turned out that he was absolutely amazing in that role.

Other reasons we should be quiet and get excited for "Jack Reacher":

1)   The supporting cast. In addition to Cruise-as-Jack Reacher, we also get Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike, and, as the bad guy, Werner Herzog. Please file under: Amazing.

2)   Christopher McQuarrie. At one point, Christopher McQuarrie, coming off the success of "The Usual Suspects," was the hottest screenwriter around. He's been working steadily since then, mostly doing punch-up work on things like "X-Men" and "The Tourist." Around the time Cruise made "Valkyrie," though, McQuarrie came under his good graces, and has become the star's go-to writer (replacing Robert Towne, who is probably too old to still be Cruise's monkey). Cruise had McQuarrie re-write "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," and at the time of Tony Scott's tragic death, McQuarrie was busy with "Top Gun 2." Here, Cruise also gave McQuarrie the first chance to direct something since 2000's underrated oddball meta-western "The Way of the Gun." Any fans of 'Way of the Gun' know that McQuarrie is perfect for the Reacher material – hardboiled pulp at its most easily enjoyable. A perfect melding of talent and material, as only Cruise could have engineered.

3)   "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol." Remember around this time last year when we were all like, "Gee, another 'Mission: Impossible'? Great." And then it turned out to be one of the best action movies of the year (and one of the best movies of last year, period)? Yeah. I remember that too. And I think "Jack Reacher" could easily achieve the same distinction. There's a reason Paramount is releasing it on almost the exact same date, one year later. They have big plans for "Jack Reacher" – the movie and the character.

4)   The trailer is pretty cool. What? It is!

This December, a new franchise will be born, from an unlikely, nearly homeless hero. And it's going to kick our collective ass. Mark my words - Drew Taylor

The Case Against:
Unlike some who have their knives out for "Jack Reacher," I have nothing against Tom Cruise, who I generally find compelling even when the film's less than great. And I certainly like the supporting cast even more -- Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Michael Raymond-James from "Terriers" and, of course, Mr. Herzog. Furthermore, I've heard nothing but great things about Lee Child's source novels, which sound right up my pulpy-crime street.

And yet I just can't get my pulse up over "Jack Reacher" (the first entry in the Year of Jack, preceding "Jack: The Giant Killer" and "Jack Ryan"). The idea of a noir-tinged, stripped-down thriller isn't a bad one, but Paramount's marketing campaign has alternated between trying to make you think that it's either "Drive" or a new "Mission: Impossible" movie. And the result is that it comes across as the pilot for some new FX series -- a spin-off of "Justified," perhaps. Except that "Justified" has quirk, and a setting that's as much a central character as anything else, and the greatness of Elmore Leonard as inspiration. "Jack Reacher" just looks sort of generic.

For all its credentials, there's nothing here that doesn't make it appear to be some kind of Mark Wahlberg movie released in March 2006. A drab tax-break location, a visual approach that looks to be a bit bland, and a faintly miscast Cruise looking like he's phoning it in all have me glazing over a bit. Even Herzog's appearance in the latest trailer disappointed a little -- he seems to be underplaying it pretty heavily, which is hardly what I was after.

I enjoyed "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," but let's be honest, it's a pretty thin script (remember that entirely anonymous villain?) elevated by top-notch direction by Brad Bird. And on the basis of "The Way of the Gun" twelve years ago, Christopher McQuarrie is no Brad Bird. Indeed, I've not really been a fan of the few writing credits that McQuarrie's racked up in the intervening time. I hope he'll surprise here. And lowered expectations can only help. But on the basis of what's been seen so far, those expectations are very, very low indeed. - Oliver Lyttelton

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19 Comments

  • JJ | November 18, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    Have read all 17 Reacher books and loved them. The character is obviously well established. As described by Lee Child on his website, Reacher is 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest, blond hair, blue eyes, 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam. Much of what Reacher does is built upon this physical description. That is one of the reasons why it is so difficult for die hard Reacher fans to accept Tom Cruise as Reacher. Just because Lee Child and his spin team tell me to 'drink the kook aid' and believe in the choice doesn't mean I'm going to. I like Tom Cruise as an actor but in this case, the glove doesn't fit.

  • Claudia | November 1, 2012 7:35 PMReply

    People! People! Did you not see mission impossible?!?!?!? It was one of the best action movies of the year! Right? Trust Lee Child, who has seen the movie and says basically, "wait until you see it, you'll walk out asking yourself what was I worried about." Dudes! That's the FATHER of Jack Reacher saying that! Have some faith! Movies are ALL about suspending disbelief to get sucked into the world of the movie, remember! I'll bet ya it is gonna be one of the best action films of the year!

  • ian | November 1, 2012 7:30 PMReply

    I understand the complaints of the book readers that are rooted in the literally description of protagonist, but for me? I can easily separate the book character from a movie version. Easy. Bottom line? If its a great movie, I'm there. I couldn't care less about the casting difference in book fan eyes. Great movie, and its getting my ticket, and with Cruise, over the years, the odds are fairly high it will be a great movie. We'll see soon enough!

  • Steve | October 29, 2012 1:21 PMReply

    I'm not one of those people who hate Cruise and all his work. I don't like his personality, but in the right role, he's a hell of an actor.

    But, this isn't the right role. People always complain that a selected actor doesn't fit their (the readers') image of a character. But this isn't a case of an actor being too pretty/ugly/blond/etc for a role. The Reacher character is a hulking man. That is an important part of the character. You don't see the "bad guys" underestimating him because he's some puny kick-sand-in-his face character. They may underestimate him for other reasons, but not because of that. Putting some 5'7" actor into that role automatically changes that relationship between the character and his opponent(s).

    Obviously, I'm biased, but based on the trailers I don't think I'd watch this even if I hadn't read the Reacher books. Using that "I am not a hero" tagline just makes me think that there is going to be some awful dialogue in this movie.

  • Slappy san | October 22, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    I'm just glad Lee Child didn't change the character in the books to match the movie. Casting a tiny man as Reacher made this a "rental" at best.

  • Joxe | October 21, 2012 2:04 PMReply

    I am not tall at all and I am a succesful person and I believe I am not a bad one either, so what's the problem with not being tall? Actually Tom Cruise is not really short. He's just normal height. On the other hand, his movies have always been very well crafted and entertaining and Jack Reacher looks exactly that way -: incredibly entertaining!

  • Sean | October 19, 2012 3:05 AMReply

    Been a fan of Cruise for as long as I can remember. I hope the film will do HUGE numbers at the box office & by the looks of the trailer & direc & script & story line I dont see why it wouldnt at all... And who the fuck cares if he isnt big or tall enuff!!!! Camera angles will take care of that No1 is even remotely tall in Hollywood go check! Except maybe like a Hugh Jackman who I coulda def seen in this role. But this film is right up Cruise's ally come on now. A blind film critic could see that haha.

  • Christine | October 18, 2012 11:18 PMReply

    Can't take the closeups of his face anymore! 3,000 per movie is just too much!

  • Bruce Haynes | October 18, 2012 10:45 PMReply

    Having read and eagerly anticipated the release of all Reacher novels, the decision to cast Tom
    Cruise in the role is a prime example of Hollywood using an A list actor and is totally inappropriate. It will definitely keep me from seeing the movie as I don't want to spoil the image created in the books themselves. Reacher is a 6' 4" heavy hitter that simply cannot be portrayed by Tom Cruise and would be better served by Russel Crowe for his size if nothing else. How many times have we seen this happen? Sell out the integrity of the character and true authenticity of the story for the holy grail of profit at all costs. A prime example was Denzel Washington in the role of a white journalist in a Grisham movie or Pierce Brosnan in the role of the 6' 1" Bond. One of the main motivating factor is profit above all else even if the producers have to prostitute themselves to do it.

  • jane | October 18, 2012 4:31 PMReply

    I have just finished reading 61 Hours and love the series. I think in a literary sense making the anti-hero hero seem 7 feet tall makes sense on paper. However, in a movie it is much more powerful if the hero isn't as literally tall as his character. I really enjoy the fact that they picked an actor who is small in stature but larger than life. Reacher is dark and scarcastic but has a wonderful sense of humor that I believe Tom Cruise will deliver. Can't wait to see it.

  • AnGuan | October 18, 2012 4:06 PMReply

    It will be AWESOME.

  • JP | October 18, 2012 2:43 PMReply

    I just finished "Persuader"(7th book in the series, I'm reading them in order) and while Cruise is much smaller than Reacher, Lee Child signed off on it and has nothing but good things to say. While I might prefer Neeson for his size, (he's still smaller than Reacher) if Cruise is good enough for Child he's good enough for me. Go watch the interviews on You Tube. So glad there is a new trailor...I Can't Wait!!

  • Doug | October 18, 2012 6:37 PM

    JP, I totally agree. Lee Child would NEVER jeopardize the passion us Reacher fans have for the character. Why don't people understand that? Cruise looks awesome in this trailer and I'm so excited for the movie.

  • Joxe | October 18, 2012 3:55 PM

    Who cares about the actor's size in a movie? I don't. I just care about the movie being entertaining and Tom Cruise movies have always been very entertaining, so I won't miss it. I loved the action packed trailer. Just an advice to the weak hearted: you may rather stay at home and watch "Little House on the Prairies" instead of going to see Jack Reacher.

  • caro | October 18, 2012 2:06 PMReply

    i enjoy Cruise as action guy in screen but i thought Reacher was a dark guy and Cruise isn't a dark guy

  • kitcon | October 18, 2012 1:24 PMReply

    MI-4 was the best of the lot because of Brad Bird, Cruise didn't do anything he hasn't done in previous action films -- same superhuman feats. If Bird was directing this I'd be more optimistic and the trailer would probably look a lot different too. As it is, you could black out Cruise' face and replace it with Jason Statham or even Liam Neeson. They both have successful franchises so this certainly could find an audience too. But it looks very run of the mill.

  • Jeniks | October 20, 2012 12:46 AM

    Jason Statham recently did a B action movie...Tom Cruise is biggest moviestar in the world indeed and has that to his advantage even at age 50. He sold that Mission Impossible movie to the World

  • Joxe | October 18, 2012 3:50 PM

    "Cruise didn't do anything"? Besides being the main actor in Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise was also a producer, so he was making the important decisions such as hiring Brad Bird. With this information in hand you may now change your mind as he is very responsible for the movie being so goood!

  • caro | October 18, 2012 2:07 PM

    please don't be nasty with Cruise.He's 10000 times better than Statham

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