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In “Jack Reacher,” a sniper with a scoped M1A has just killed five Pirates fans in front of PNC Park with six long distance shots. Even Roberto Clemente rarely went five for six, so the shooter had to have some skills. Because the Pirates can ill afford to lose what’s left of their dwindling fan base, the Pittsburgh Five-O jumps all over the case. A suspect named Barr – one name, like Beyonce – is quickly picked up by the fuzz. The case against him is so strong that even Marcia Clark could win it. The accused man, who is a former military sniper, refuses to talk to the cops. Instead, he writes the name of Jack Reacher on the DA’s legal pad. I don’t know about you, but I’d be writing “Gerry Spence.”

And just who is Jack Reacher?

He’s a will o’ the wisp, a legend, a rumor. A former highly-decorated military police officer and West Point grad, Reacher is a modern knight-errant who lives completely off the grid. Unlike knights of old, he travels by Greyhound bus rather than a magnificent steed, probably because the inside of a bus is at least marginally cleaner than your average stable.

Reacher is a character created by British author Jim Grant, writing as Lee Child. As envisioned by Child, Reacher has few possessions and no roots. He wanders from town to town with nothing more than the clothes on his back, some cash, a well-used travel toothbrush and maybe a couple of jumbo Trojans.

At 6’5” and 250 pounds of pure muscle, Reacher is so huge and powerful that strong men’s sphincters prolapse at the mere sight of him. On his way from somewhere to nowhere, Reacher rights wrongs, executes bad guys and gets laid. He’s the Lone Ranger without Tonto, Paladin for the new millennium, and in this move he’s played by Tom Cruise.

Wait, Tom Cruise?

I know. It’s counter-intuitive, like Vin Diesel playing the lead in “The Hobbit.” So what if Cruise is a hundred pounds lighter and ten inches shorter than Reacher. In Hollywood, ten inches only matters in porn.

But back to the plot. The Pittsburgh DA and the po-po reach out for Reacher but they can’t reach Reacher because Reacher doesn’t want to be reached. Yeah, he’s like that. However, unknown to the Pittsburgh authorities, Reacher, who has just finished boffing a nubile nymphet in a cheap motel room somewhere in America, sees the news report on TV and hops the first Trailways bus to the City of Bridges.

Helen Rodin, Barr’s defense attorney (played by British actress Rosamund Pike), is happy to see Reacher, and not because he has a pistol in his pocket. She’s convinced that Barr is as guilty as OJ but she wants to save him from the needle because, like seamstresses, that’s what good lawyers do.Never mind that there hasn’t been an execution in Pennsylvania since the last year of the last century. It’s the thought that counts, and Helen doesn’t want the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania partying on Barr like it’s 1999.

Oh, and did I mention that the DA, who never-ever-ever-loses — ever — is Helen’s dear old dad? Or that the chick is still working through a serious Electra complex? Okay, I kinda extrapolated the last part. Let’s just say that the two of them aren’t going to join up for Take Your Daughter to Work Day any time soon, and let it go at that.

Anyway, Helen thinks that Reacher, as Barr’s friend, is just the guy to help her save Barr’s worthless life. But not so fast – Reacher’s no friend of Barr. In fact, he hates Barr’s guts and would be delighted to see him die, especially if he could personally do the honors.

The rest of the movie involves Reacher using his best Jedi mind tricks to unravel a far-reaching criminal conspiracy. He also finds time to go all Chuck Norris on five, count ‘em, five tough guys at once, disarm a thug with a nifty spin move, fight hand to hand celebrity death matches with some serious badasses, drive a car like he stole it and perform other acts of derring-do, Reacher style.

“Jack Reacher” has four signature action scenes. They’re good, but there’s nothing in them that we haven’t seen before.

The first is the opening sniper shooting. It’s well done, but Peter Bogdanovich did it better in the 1968 movie “Targets,” when the budget for the entire film was $130,000. The producers of “Jack Reacher’ spent more than that on lunch.

The second has Reacher taking on the five bozos immediately after telling them how he’s going to beat them up. Having witnessed a bar fight or two from uncomfortably close distances, I can testify that the only talking points just before and during a five-on-one beatdown involves, at most, a couple of guttural, unprintable Anglo-Saxon epithets. Followed immediately by the five guys jumping on the one guy and stomping him about the head until the wax runs out of his ears. There’s just not a lot of snappy dialog.

Action scene number three is a car chase that should have been great, but was only good. Cruise did his own driving in the scene, and he did his part well. However, the chase owed more to “Grand Theft Auto” it did to “Bullitt” or “The French Connection.”

Those two car chases were the best in movie history because their directors exploited the locations where they were filmed. In “Bullitt,” the cars flew up, over and down the hills and humps of the streets of San Francisco. In TFC, William Friedkin wove the chase scene through a maze of New York traffic and under its elevated trains, leaving paint on just about every girder and parked car in town.

Jack Reacher drives through back alleys that have all the character and interest of a dorm room at Bob Jones University. In a place known as the City of Bridges, the chase scene must be considered a lost opportunity.

The last signature moment comes when Reacher gets the drop on a kidnapper, only to toss away his weapon so the bad guy can kick his ass a little. Really?

And that’s the eternal question: would the character really do that? Does the cheerleader really go into the basement when she hears something down there in the dark? No, she gets out of the house and calls the college football team that she’s been, uh, cultivating all year.Do the young lovers really get it on in the woods after they know that the homicidal maniac has escaped from the lunatic asylum conveniently located just down the road? No, they get a room at a motel, preferably in another time zone.

Does Reacher really toss away his gun so he can have the pleasure of busting up the bad guy with his bare knuckles while the kidnap victim simpers twenty-five feet away with a Glock 17 to her head?

So there are some plot elements that don’t make a lot of sense. Big deal. It’s a movie, not a doctoral thesis. As for Cruise, he’s a bit like government; he acts best when he acts least. Reacher is taciturn, so playing Reacher doesn’t require a lot of emoting, or even talking, which plays to one of the Tom’s strengths. Cruise also carries out his part of the bargain by looking as fit as a smallish 50-year old man can look, especially one whose workout regimen involves jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa.

Toward the end of the movie before the climax, we see the star playing off Robert Duvall. That’s when we get a glimpse of how engaging Cruise can be. Cruise is at his best when he can flash a bit of wry insouciance, like he did while playing Lt. Kaffee in “A Few Good Men.” Some humor would not be out of character for a Reacher story, and this movie could have benefitted from a bit more of it. Especially since Cruise does that touch of humor thing better than anyone else.

But no. In an effort to seem more menacing than his physical presence can carry off, Cruise has made Reacher a bit too stoic. He never once comes on to Helen, even when she threatens to bust out of her semi-revealing tops and turn the movie into Twin Peaks. Had we not seen Reacher in the motel room with the pretty young thing, we’d naturally assume that he’s unaffected by pulchritude of the female kind. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Alas, while the Reacher books usually have a touch of romance, this movie has none, and Cruise and Pike have exactly zero chemistry.

Reacher’s two principal foils are Duvall as a crusty ex-Marine and German director Werner Herzog as the creepy Russian villain. The crusty ex-Marine has become a predictable Hollywood cliché, and frankly, I’m bored with it. Still, Duvall is quirky, funny and tough in the part. He brings out the best of Cruise.

And Russian villains? Let’s just say that Hollywood hasn’t liked a Russian since their beloved Joe Stalin caught a stroke. Herzog’s “Zek” is repulsive, frightening and utterly believable, even with his German accent trying to pass for Russian. He brings out the worst of Reacher.

Director and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie keeps the action moving along, while Cruise is Cruise. There were fine supporting performances by a Gen3 Glock 17, a Colt M1911A1 and an M4A1. There were also a special appearances by a SIG P556/550 hybrid and a custom rifle previously used in “Salt” that’s way more drool-worthy than Angelina Jolie. There’s also a cameo by a scoped Remington 700 because, well, there’s always a scoped Remmy somewhere. It’s America, ain’t it?

The real star of the movie is the Springfield Armory M1A. It’s in three important scenes, once wearing desert camo, once in woodland camo and a Standard in oiled walnut. But no matter how it was outfitted by the wardrobe department, the M1A functioned flawlessly, proved perfectly accurate and never demanded its own trailer.

Taking everything into account, “Jack Reacher” is an okay action movie that should have been a very good action movie. The film only made about $16 million during its first week, so it’s far short of earning back its $50-60 million budget and justifying a second Reacher movie.


Model: Jack Reacher
Caliber: Medium
Length:  130 minutes
Action: Plenty
Finish: The Lone Ranger leaves town in a puff of diesel smoke
Price: About $30 with popcorn and a soda

RATINGS (out of five bullets):

Style * * * *
Pittsburgh never looked so good. The way it’s photographed, it might as well be Paris, or at least the Paris of Pennsylvania. The sniping scenes — and there are several — are tight. The snipers all shoot Springfield Armory M1A’s, proving that the civilian version of the M14 really is as evil as Diane Feinstein. I mean, as evil as Diane Feinstein says.

Reliability * * *
The book was better. Okay, except for Charleton Heston’s “The Ten Commandments,” the book is always better.

There’s plenty of muscular but formulaic action. Strong turns by Werner Herzog as the reptilian Russian villain, and Robert Duvall as the OFWG who owns a gun range, earn the film an extra ½*. Who says that OFWGs can’t be cool?

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  1. So this means I would be the last Pirates fan on Earth?

    On the plus side, this would be the first news worthy Pirates event since Randall Simon hit the running sausage with his bat.

  2. The Jack Reacher novels are an excellent series with the lead character at 6’5” with Tom Cruise @ 5’5”. I am boycotting the books and movies now as Cruise is such a knucklehead..I would not be able to enjoy them.

  3. Saw it yesterday. Really enjoyed the film. Can’t help but want an M1A now. I’m glad that Robert Duvall’s character redeemed the rifle. It would have been a little sad if only the bad guys had used this beautiful firearm.

  4. He is a “sniper” with a Aimpoint? And are those BUIS supposed to be paired together? A HK front sight and a flip up rear? Does that work? And from the looks of it, I wonder if they even co-witness with the Aimpoint.

  5. I am shocked! SHOCKED! to read that Hollywood has, once again, made a violent action movie with ASSAULT WEAPONS featured! This kind of mindless adulation of firearms by the leftist media has to be stopped! We need a law! One that will require all movies (and video games) to use only muzzleloading, single-shot firearms (hey, the 2nd Amendment is about Brown Bess muskets, right?). Or maybe they could use Nerf guns, as long as they do not show anyone getting their eye put out.

    Can you say “hypocrisy”, boys and girls?

  6. M1A’s are very nice rifles, but one should be aware that to make them MOA (or just under) shooters, you’re looking at sinking quite a load of money into them. Like, oh, over $2K. I don’t care whether you buy it tricked out for tight groups, or you buy a rack grade rifle and have a ‘smith tart it up for you. Either way, you’re looking at about $2K to make it group tight. And then you’ll be using something like Federal 168gr Match ammo (over $1/round) to obtain the accuracy it’s capable of.

    Want to throw down tight groups on a budget? Don’t use a semi-auto.

    • Yeah, the really accurate 1000yd bench rest rifles all tend to be single shot bolt actions, don’t they?

      • Pretty much. There are some very accurate rifles built on falling block actions, but most all the accuracy boys are well settled on bolt guns.

        I think the current five-shot record at 1,000 yards is about 1.4 inches, 5X.

        The .308 is starting to run out of gas at 1,000 yards too.

    • Alexander Arms makes some pretty accurate 6.5 Grendel ARs with match stainless Shilen barrels. The AR platform is capable of some pretty impressive accuracy. Getting an AR below 3/4 MOA is a couple grand. Ditto for bolt guns, ditto for M1A’s.

      My only sub quasi-legit 3/4 MOA groups below $2000 in hardware were my Winchester 70 with a BOSS tuned to 1.8 and Federal 150 grain Game Shok soft points and a Redfield Tracker 3-9 scope. And those were ‘select’ 3 round groups.

      Don’t all real, witnessed, repeatable sub 3/4 or 1/2 MOA groups require a couple grand in tuning and hardware?

      • Well…. I’m very leery of using terms like “all.” There are some rifles out there that are incredible shooters from the factory, with no match barrel, no bedding in the stock, etc. They’re rare, but I have seen them.

        Many times, the owners of these rifles have no idea how rare and special an item they have – and they sell these rifles off to get some new hotness, only to find out (bitterly) that what they had in the old rifle was indeed rare and special. I tell people who come to me with a hunting rifle that groups under 1″ with factory ammo for some modification “Do you really want me to change this? This is pretty good.” They point to some groups being thrown down by benchrest or F-class guys and gals, and then I have to sit these hunters down and have a serious chat about expectations – to the detriment of my bottom line. But I’m not going to lie to customers or lead them down a road to silly expenditures on their part.

        I’d say that to get a reliable 1/2 MOA rifle, you’re looking at a high-grade custom barrel, a bedded stock, a much improved (or aftermarket) trigger, some work in the action or bolt and then a lot of time spent developing a load. Between parts costs and gunsmithing expenses, you’re always going to be over $2K. The only way to get these costs down is… to become a gunsmith. You too can spend $20K on schooling and $30K on tools to save $1K on the cost of an accurate rifle.

        Your BOSS eliminates a lot of that – by “tuning” a factory barrel, you can accomplish wonders. The boys and girls in the .22 accuracy game use tuners all the time to achieve very high levels of accuracy.

        WRT to your Winnie: You might be able to improve on those groups by going to all-copper pills – Berger or Barnes. I have a Model 70 in .270 Winchester into which I loaded Barnes 150gr TSX’s two years ago for an elk cow hunt, and I was blown away by the improvement in accuracy. With 150gr Partitions, that rifle did about 1.3″, pretty much no matter how I moved the loads up or down. By going to TSX pills, the first load I tried grouped less than 3/4″ (five shots). For hunting, I quit fooling around right there and called it good.

        This is a beat-up 1968-vintage Model 70, BTW, with an unbedded wood stock, no BOSS, no aftermarket work on it other than a new recoil pad. Nothing special at all.

        With 110gr V-Max pills and some fiddling with the loads, I can get it to group 1/2″, but I cannot get those groups with any other bullet weight. That’s the sort of thing the BOSS (or any other tuning weight) addresses.

    • The FNAR from FNH has a MOA out of the box guarantee which it apparently lives up to. Never shot it or even held it, but that’s what I’ve heard.

      • I’ll look into that, thanks.

        And I’ll never sell that stainless .30-06 Winchester 70 ultimate classic post ’64 claw. I’ll hand it down to the little one.

  7. Now this is just great!
    We are giving unabashed movie reviews in the form of a gun review!! Love it!

    I will probably wait for it to come out on DVD, doesn’t seem worth the money for going to the theater. Given it’s not so great start I figure I won’t have to wait that long!

    Great article Ralph!!!

  8. Tom Cruise should never be cast as any sort of action hero.

    The willful suspension of disbelief cant butch up a 4 foot tall pretty boy with a high-pitched voice.

    • Too late… Tom Cruise has been in many action movies. Heard of Mission Impossible? They made 4 of them. I’d rather see Tom in an action movie rather than a drama anyway.

      Will probably see this movie. Any movie that has decent action involving firearms is worth $10 to me.

  9. The book was sure alot different than the movie I must say…..oh well thats hollywierd for ya….

  10. Great, now the more delicate among us are going to legislating against “sniper rifles”. Hey deer hunters, there go your scoped Remmys.

  11. One of the Reacher novels starts with Reacher employed digging swimming pools by hand. I don’t see Cruise digging a cat hole by hand, much less a swimming pool.

  12. I saw this movie yesterday and loved it. I found it stupid when the release of this and Django were delayed in the wake of the school shooting, but after seeing the opening scene that the movie’s investigation revolves around I can’t blame them.

    • +1 Had the same thought.

      Being from Washington state, the car-based sniping of unarmed civilians brought back bad memories of John Lee Malvo.

  13. My Daughter and I saw the movie the day after Christmas. We went to the 12:30pm matinee. We had both just had lunch so skipped the money makers.
    We both had read all the Lee Child/Reacher books and were curious how Tom would do? He did pretty well actually.
    Paid $9.00 for the both of us, so I think we got good value for the price.
    The fight outside the bar is straight out the book. Even the dialog.
    The car chase was filler in the middle. Not a bad one, not a great one. Great was the “old Chevy”.
    As far as the show down fight at the end , the “real” Reacher would have just shot him and moved on.
    It was worth seeing.

  14. I enjoy the Reacher series and have all of the books. That said, I was very disappointed to find out Cruise had been cast as Reacher. It also sounds like they didn’t follow the book much either.

  15. What sucks even more is that my name is “James Barr” (seriously!) and I fear for my life now!

    I claim prior art! I’ll sue!


  16. Not a Cruise fan anymore, but Ralph, if you keep writing witty reviews like this I hope he keeps making movies.
    I know I had more fun reading your review than at many movies I’ve seen.
    Thanks Ralph!

  17. How’d they make that runt so big? Cinemagic?

    Anyow, FORGET ABOUT MOVIES. The Illinois legislature is poised RIGHT NOW to OUTLAW “all modern weapons”.

    The time to argue if and when is OVER. The runaway train has hove into view, and it’s a-fireballin’ down the track. In our direction.

  18. Hmmm I wonder if this movie is torrent worthy? I haven’t give my money to Hollywood in over 10 years. If I want to see something I hop on the Internet.

    This review reminded me of this website. If you want to know what guns were used in a movie then go to this site.

  19. Me and my wife were big fans of the books and we even debated who should play reacher if they ever made a movie..Tom freakin Cruise never came up..ever..we agreed that we dont even want to waste the time it would take to watch the movie. Hell I dont think I can bring myself to read any more books in the series. Stupid hollywood bastids!

  20. Saw it yesterday. Not great but a little better than good. Haven’t read any Reacher books but now have to. Was interesting to see Robert Duvall demoted from Col to gunny (ret).

  21. The wifey’s comment after I saw this with her: “We just watched CSI: Pittsburgh, starring Tom Cruise.” LOL.

    I actually thought Robert Duvall’s stock character of the crusty ‘ol Marine gunny sergeant to be a scene-stealing awesome character.

    And Werner Herzog’s shadowy mobster villain? The finger-biting scene was filled with skin-crawling tension.

    Maybe I’m a sucker for spaghetti westerns and blaxpoitation films, but DJANGO was far more enjoyable. Can’t for the TTAG review of that one, spring-loaded wrist holstered derringers, shotties, wheel gun vengeance, and all.

  22. Translate portuguese in Google.
    Porque não escalaram Vincent D’Onofrio para interpretar o personagem? O cara cai como uma luva e com certeza ele daria muito bem conta do recado porque ele pode interpretar qualquer um, palavra de honra! Droga, não dá para acreditar em tamanha estupidez desses produtores de Hollywood!

  23. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the anti-gun messages in the movie. I’ve read all 18 or so Reacher novels and Child makes many anti-gun (and generally liberal) points. But this movie amped them up. Did you catch Reacher remarking to Duvall’s character about his surveillance cameras that one of “these nuts” (the range customers) would shoot him if they found out they were being recorded? And the generally dumb/creepy atmosphere of the shop?

    Then there were the “Soldiers just really really want to kill people” and “all Soldiers are crazy and have PTSD” stereotypes rolled into one character (James Barr).

    All that aside, the movie was about 15% as good as the book. I had high hopes despite Cruise being cast, but the movie had none of the energy or intelligence of the book. They took a lot of important stuff out and added a bunch of stupid crap.

    My husband, a gun aficionado and Soldier who has never read the books, also hated it.

    Haven’t been that disappointed in a movie in a long time.

    PS. Ralph, I love your writing and love the site. 🙂

  24. The physical comparisons between Cruise and Reacher are irrelevant. Just as Jack Nickleson was most unlike Randall Patrick McMurphy, another bruiser in height and weight, he filled the role. The dialogue was quick and witty enough throughout. I’ve read Reacher books. This movie adds to my interest.

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