Mark Metcalf says "There is a fascinating character hidden inside 'Jack Reacher,'" but unfortunately, "Tom Cruise is not a good actor."
An actor is given a script. The actor reads the script. Regardless of whether or not he eventually does the part, the first read is the most important read he will do. He begins to find the voice of the character. He begins to understand the character: knows why and how he makes the choices he does, lives the way he does. By the end of the first read a good portion of his work is done. Then he decides if he wants to do the part. That has to do with how much of himself he recognizes in the character, whether he has already begun to imagine a back story for the character, how much of a pull toward the character he feels and how irresistible that pull is. He also has to decide if he wants to live with that character for several months or even a year. He has to ask how much he cares and whether there is that much to explore, that much more to learn. A good actor decides to do the part because he can see the work that needs to be done. It is not a business decision. It has nothing to do with his career. It is about the work.
Tom Cruise is not a good actor.
There is a fascinating character hidden inside Jack Reacher. The Jack Reacher of the novels. A purely bred modern warrior. A soldier. One of many whose lives we have used so that we can continue having weekend barbecues, flat screen televisions and a favorite football team. At 40 years old he was used up. We were tired of him and he of us. He became a ghost, a dead man hitchhiking, coming to life only to right perceived wrongs. A classic American hero: skilled, brutal, living by a code that is intensely personal and as strict as a stone wall. Tom Cruise throws his body at it but he talks too much and when he does he doesn’t know what he’s saying or why. The coldness is there, but not the weariness, the sadness, the stoicism. I wish Tom Hardy had been available.
It’s too bad because it could have been an interesting B movie, a modern film noir. It could have been a classic. It should at least have been classical. But, as my father used to say, “Woulda, coulda, shoulda.” I don’t really know what he meant by that, but I understood it to mean that all that is just wishful thinking. If it didn’t happen it never will and move on.
Now, one of the really interesting things about Jack Reacher in the opening scene when a sniper sets up and murders five innocent people in a park near a baseball stadium. One of the five he targets is a four or five year old child walking with his nanny. Given the events in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 14, there is and will be and should be an audible gasp at the moment the audience realizes what might be about to happen. There are rumors that Paramount is not going to open the movie because the reaction is so visceral to that moment, that it throws it right out of the ‘that’s entertainment’ arena. They are still advertising it. It’s still listed as opening on Friday, Dec. 21, sometimes being referred to as One Shot, the name of one of the Jack Reacher books.
The movie is expendable because it wallows in violence and brutality but never pays any price at all. Cruise is like Frank Sinatra when he got old and tried to play tough guys. Sinatra may have had no moves and a bad wig but at least he had soul. Cruise is counting the money from jump street. He hasn’t invested himself. He’s never asked the question, “Why do I care?”
Jack Reacher (One Shot) opens Friday, Dec. 21 at Fox Bay Cinema Grill, iPic at Bayshore and Marcus Cinemas.