Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Jack Reacher


Lee Child is the author of 17 very popular books featuring the ultimate loner, Jack Reacher. JR is a former Army MP, and now he is a drifter. There is nothing in his pockets but a folding toothbrush, money, an expired passport (to avoid police hassles for carrying no ID), and an ATM card. No driving license, no keys to anything. No backpack or suitcase … nothing. He travels by foot, by thumb, and by bus. He never cooks, he stays in cheap motels, he never washes clothes, wearing them for a few days and then tossing them and buying new, cheap stuff at thrift stores, outlet malls, and Army-Navy surplus. He has some small savings and a pension check, which more than cover his needs. When he’s low on cash he takes a temp job or has money wired to him. Compare his freedom to your own life, and weep.

I like the books a lot. It is a very appealing fantasy for guys. (Lee has read some of them, and likes them, too.) Of course you need to be tough, to back your own play with your fists, but that’s part of the fantasy. He is also an expert marksman, and has a cold calculator in his brain. He wanders into town, gets in trouble, straightens it out, always with a certain level of violence when he is forced into it, and then he rides off, leaving the local citizenry to scratch their heads and wonder “Who was that six-foot-five, 240-pound masked man?” “Hi-yo, Greyhound! Away!”

It is such an appealing fantasy that the fanboys have a name for themselves: Reacher’s Creatures. And when it was announced that Tom Cruise was definitely going to play JR in the movie, the RCs set up a howl that reverberated across the Pond from the UK (where Lee Child is from) to the US (where the books are set) and back again. Why? Oh, how about the fact that Cruise, though he’s always been pretty good at action thrillers, is ten inches shorter and probably a hundred pound lighter? JR is supposed to be imposing. Hulking! Cruise is many things (including being a major loon) but hulking is not one of them.

So, there’s two questions here. One is how convincing is TC at playing JR? Two is, is this a good movie? The answer to the first is, abandon all hope, all ye RCs who enter here. TC is not JR. The second is, if you pretend this is some other action hero entirely, it’s not too bad.

I was somewhat surprised at how much of the legend, and the plot (from the book One Shot) was retained. This Reacher is really a loner, beholden to nobody, and really does throw away his clothes when they’re dirty. He reasons his way through the problem just as it was done in the book. But little details like that actually made me more sorrowful than happy, for what might have been.

What did not surprise me was the bullshit they added in. I can’t recall all the plot, but apparently JR did actually drive a car in the book. But I’m not remembering the obligatory car chase where dozens of police cars and others were totaled. And I’m definitely not remembering a scene where JR has finally disarmed the last bad guy, is standing there in the rain and mud with the bad guy at his mercy … and then throws the AK-47 or whatever away and dukes it out, man to man, with the killer. And nearly gets his tiny Scientologist ass whipped. That doesn’t sound like JR at all.

So, like I said, ignore the title and the use of the name for this character, if you can, and what you have left is a fairly decent action picture. Nothing more.