Can Top Grandpa Be a Believable Badass?
There are so many reasons to doubt the casting of Tom Cruise as the 6’ 5” 240+ lbs badass Jack Reacher that I’d either tire from the effort (and bore you to tears) or flip my lid (and cause you to crack up). Not caring to play any kinda crying game, and none too eager to have you laugh at my expense, I’ll opt instead to count the reasons why Jack Reacher the movie just might surprise us all.
First there’s the director; or I should say, the directors. See not only is Jack Reacher directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the same cat who inked The Usual Suspects (for which he won an Oscar) and The Way of the Gun (which he also lensed), but the flick stars none other than Werner Herzog as a villain named The Zec. Now McQuarrie and Herzog may spring from very different generations, yet both are as keen as they come in filmdom, and to have the two collide over a smack ‘em up such as Jack Reacher is the cinematic equivalent Smart Food; that is to say the kinda popcorn that proves to be both fun and nutritious.
Also on hand in what will undoubtedly be a holiday blockbuster is Robert Duvall (as Samuel Cash), who of course has been in more magnificent motion pictures than just about anybody alive. Granted the Oughts haven’t always seen Duvall at his perennial best, but the legend’s portrayal of Robert E. Lee (in Gods and Generals) and a NYPD police chief (in We Own the Night) proves he’s still got it when the situation calls for it to be gotten.
Then there’s the fact that Jack Reacher is one of the most explosively endurable characters in crime fiction. Created by British thriller ace Lee Child, initially unveiled in 1997’s Killing Floor, and most recently featured in the just out A Wanted Man (Delacorte $28), Reacher is the kinda calm, cool and lethal walk alone Americans are prone to favor when things get tough, and eager to turn to when the situation gets iffy. As implied, Reacher in print is a veritable giant of a man, and his stature is exceeded perhaps only by his smarts and his skills, be it in hand-to-hand combat or up-to-the-minute weaponry, most of which he learned as a U.S. Army Military Police Major. While Child has graced his creation with nuance enough to keep him compelling, it is that finely calibrated mix of size, smarts and skills which makes Jack Reacher such a proverbial force to be reckoned with.
Knowing full well that Cruise couldn’t cut the one-two-three punch is what propelled the above-mentioned doubts about his casting, but as Lee Child himself explained to Playboy this was purely a matter of pragmatism, and we need not be alarmed.
“When you transfer a book to the screen, something’s going to give. It seems to me there are three essential things about Reacher. First, he’s smart. Second, he’s still and quiet yet menacing. Third, he’s huge. It was always likely we were going to lose one of those characteristics. The question was which. For a long time we were fixated on his physique. We had to have a big guy. But we got nowhere. There were no actors big enough who could do even one of the other things. Then it came as an epiphany. Give up the physique and concentrate on Reacher’s smartness and quietness.”
Whether or not this reassures you vis-a-vis Jack Reacher depends upon how much you distrust Tom Cruise, as well as how much you trust McQuarrie to do Lee Child justice. Of course many longtime Reacher fans won’t wanna see Reacher screened no matter who’s doing the portraying, and that’s fine. Those folks will never be sold. For the curious though, and the daring, and those willing to even further suspend disbelief, Jack Reacher will be worth a look, if only to look like you knew what was coming all along.
Right now however whether you like the idea or not is pretty much a moot point. Why? Because Jack Reacher won’t hit theaters till Christmas, andLee Child’s A Wanted Man (which by the way is terrific) is in bookstores right this minute. That means everybody’s got another shot at reading Jack Reacher as he was meant to be read from the get. What are you waiting for?