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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Jack Reacher

May 5th, 2013

Jack Reacher - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

During the holiday season of 2011, Tom Cruise starred in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I thought it was arguably the best action movie of the year and it became the stars biggest hit globally and his best domestic hit in a decade (not counting a cameo in Goldmember). A year later, Jack Reacher opened with barely a fraction of the buzz. I was one of the most Bullish analysts and I was only predicting $75 million. The film did pull in $80 million domestically, which is better than expected, but nothing compared to MI:IV. Is it really that much weaker? Or did it struggle in comparison, because it wasn't part of a popular franchise.

The Movie

In the beginning of the film, we alternate between scenes of a man preparing bullets and a man preparing to use them. The shooter drives into a parking garage before shooting several supposedly random people in a park across the river. After he leaves and the cops arrive, the lead investigator, Detective Emerson, finds a shell casing and the cops also find a fingerprint on the quarter used to pay the parking meter. These point to a James Barr. When they search his place, they find the van driven there, other shell casings that match, and more. It seems like an open and shut case. However, once we see Barr's face, we know it isn't the right guy. When asked to confess, all Barr does is ask for Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher is not someone you find; he's someone who finds you. Fortunately for the D.A., Alex Rodin, and Detective Emerson, Jack Reacher sees James Barr on the news and comes to see him. Unfortunately for Jack Reacher, James Barr is in a coma (he was attacked on the way to prison) and the D.A. won't let him see the evidence. Jack does run into Barr's defense attorney, Helen Rodin, daughter of Alex Rodin. She, like Rodin and Emerson, think he's here as a witness for James Barr. But as he tells them, he's there to bury James Barr. Barr and Reacher have a history. They were both in the military together. Barr was a sniper who snapped and killed four civilian contractors just before his tour of duty was over. Jack Reacher was the one who investigated the crime and even made Barr confess. However, the men Barr killed were committing wars crimes, so the case was covered up. Jack Reacher wants to make sure this time Barr pays for his crimes. After a short conversation with Helen Rodin, he realizes there's enough oddities here that he's willing to become her lead investigator.

Jack Reacher doesn't get very far that day, but he goes to a bar to relax. There he's approached by a young lady, Sandy, who flirts with him in an very aggressive fashion. He tries to blow her off, which only insults her, and suddenly her five "brothers" are threatening to beat Jack up. He manages to kick their asses pretty damn quickly, but not quick enough, as the cops show up. Their response time is a little too fast, which shows they were called ahead of time. This is a setup. But this only makes Jack Reacher want to solve the case more.

If I were to describe Jack Reacher in one word, it would be, "Generic". If I could add a couple more words, they would be, "too long", or maybe, "overly serious". There was simply not enough in this film that was unique or innovative to draw me into the film. If the central mystery in a thriller isn't engaging, then what else does the film have going for it? Well, there are some good action scenes, but there were also a few that were puzzling. (Why did Jack Reacher drop his gun to fight one of the bad guys hand-to-hand? Did we really need to see those fight in the rain?) There was a lot of good acting in the movie, especially from the supporting cast, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, and Richard Jenkins. Unfortunately, a lot of the characters were thinly written. Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike did have some good chemistry together, which was an asset. However, the film needed more and better humor to help break-up the drama and action. A little bit of humor heightens the tension. The closest this film came to that was some cheesy one-liners.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD, but the Blu-ray has plenty. Extras start with an audio commentary track with Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie. There is also an isolated score track, with occasional commentary by Joe Kraemer, the composer. Up next is a rather meaty making of featurette. There is a shorter featurette on the action in the film. Finally, there's a featurette on the original books and their author, Lee Child.

The technical presentation is strong. There's very high level of details and the blacks are particularly deep, without swallowing up details. This is very important, as several action scenes take place at night. Colors are vivid when needed and it goes without saying that there are no compression issues or digital artifacts. The audio is just as strong with clear dialogue and good use of the surround sound speakers. This includes some nice dynamics and the bass gets a workout.

The Blu-ray only costs $4 or 25% more than the DVD, which is a bargain given the number of Blu-ray exclusive extras.

The Verdict

Jack Reacher isn't a bad movie, but it is just so average. Even most fans will likely admit there's not a lot here that we haven't seen before. If you are interested in watching, but not buying, then the DVD is fine. If you want to buy the movie, then the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the much better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike, Christopher McQuarrie, David Oyelowo, Joseph Sikora, Alexia Fast, Lee Child, Joe Kraemer