As a modern example of the post-Bourne action blockbuster, Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher is more than adequate. It’s a sleek, streamlined piece of Hollywood filmmaking, managing to maintain interest throughout its 130 minute runtime thanks to carefully-judged pacing, clean cinematography. The narrative – a machismo-laden mystery mostly faithful to Lee Child’s novel One Shot – is one of those convoluted narratives that’s got just enough going on to hold your attention (provided you don’t think too deeply about it afterwards). Even the product placement – a Mercedes reversing camera proving critical in the climatic action sequence – is clever.
What lets Jack Reacher down isn’t Cruise in the lead role – he’s convincingly brusque – but just how American it is. I can forgive the film’s worship of guns and cars, perhaps. I can even accept its tacit endorsement of police brutality as endemic to the genre’s fetishisation of fascism. But an early scene where we’re expected to applaud Reacher describing a young woman as a “slut” reveals an ugly streak of misogyny running beneath the film’s surface. Dig a little deeper and some equally problematic racist undertones are revealed; note how the only two characters who aren’t white Americans turn out to be villains.