Jack Reacher

I was one of many who was caught between shock, disgust, and amusement when the news came out that Tom Cruise had been cast in the lead role of 2012’s Jack Reacher, the first movie made from one of Lee Child‘s series of novels about a former MP of the same name. The main problem is that in the novels, a great deal of time and emphasis is put in the fact that Reacher is huge. Reacher is 6’5″, and ranges between 210 and 250 depending on how many swimming pools he’s been digging by hand recently. He regularly knocks people out with a single blow, or successfully takes on multiple opponents.

Not to overburden the point, but Tom Cruise isn’t huge. By any stretch. At the risk of stating the obvious, he’s also a cult member, exhibits a bit of a freakish personality, and his personal life is a disgrace. I generally try to ignore the personalities and personal lives of celebrities, because I honestly don’t care – I have trouble enough caring about people I actually know, never mind trying to extend this to fake facebook “friends”. There’s nothing to spare for strangers who happen to be on a screen of one size or another. Still, Cruise’s antics managed to pierce even my well-developed apathy.

Anyhow, Cruise certainly didn’t fit my idea of Reacher, and I wasn’t alone in this. Message boards, on IMDB and elsewhere, exploded with complaints and threats to boycott the movie, as well as suggestions for better fits for the part (Ray Stevenson was one of the better suggestions). People complained about Lee Child having sold out, or defended him for not having had that level of control, and so it went.

One of the scenes in the preview was of Cruise stepping into a crowd at a bus stop to evade some police who were chasing him. There was a great deal of hilarity around the idea of the casting call, specifically looking for a group of 5’2″ people to make him look at least average in height. Speculation was rife about how they would have him on huge risers, shoot exclusively from the ground up, and/or hire a lot of tiny fellow actors, in order to try to make Cruise fit the huge “Reacher” mold.

However, when December rolled around, I decided to support the story and the author, as opposed to expressing my doubts about Cruise in this role. And, I have to confess, I’m glad I did.

Jack Reacher (the movie) was based on the novel One Shot, which is the 9th novel in the series. The first shot of Cruise was shot from the floor up at his back, and I thought “Oh, here we go …” but that was the last time they shot anything specifically to make him look particularly imposing. They basically just dropped all references to Reacher’s size. He was still a tough former MP, but not a large one. This was surprisingly effective, and the fact that both the “leading lady” and the leading henchman were bigger than Cruise completely deflated my size-related objections to the movie. I have no idea if any changes were made after the public outcry about Cruise, but either way, the result was pretty impressive.

I have to admit it, Cruise gives pretty good action. The early MI movies are a little dated at this point, of course, but they were entertaining at the time. I liked The Last Samurai, though I may be in the minority there.

My remaining problems with the movie are mostly just standard-Hollywood-crap stuff. The final showdown in the novel is very different from the one in the movie (relying on Reacher dousing himself in freezing water and then walking slowly toward the bad guys in order to avoid detection via infrared, as opposed to the movie’s run-and-gun approach). Also, the idea of Reacher getting the drop on the henchman to the extent that he has his gun to the guy’s head, and then throwing the gun away so they can duke it out was pure Hollywood, and extremely non-Reacher. This happened in Gangster Squad too, apropos of nothing, and it was equally annoying. Generally, the story was pretty close to the novel, but this was definitely a false note.

So, Cruise isn’t the novel’s Reacher, but he does a pretty good movie Reacher. If further Reacher movies are in the works, I’ll be less likely to complain to anybody I think might care (at least until I actually see the movie).