Liz Smith: Jack Reacher

“Timing is everything!” as a wise philosopher once said.

And this seems to coordinate with events of late.

The murder of 20 innocent children in Connecticut backed the Nation Rifle Association into a corner they will be wiggling to get out of. It didn’t help any that this horrible event happened just before Christmas.

But I don’t think violence in movies is going to have much effect on the box office of a brand-new film, “Jack Reacher,” based on Lee Child’s book series.

All of the Child books are about a fully developed vigilante character, so distaste for this first Jack Reacher story, which depicts the shooting of five people right in the beginning of the film, may not exactly quantify as “too violent” for the season.

There is no innocence in the Reacher books.No meaningless violence. And lots of justification.

We, who are fascinated by Child’s Jack Reacher, character are just bemused by someone so physically powerful that he can travel around the country with virtually no mode of personal transportation, no luggage, not a lot of cash and he can buy a new toothbrush, razor and clean clothes and discard what he is wearing as he looks for trouble.

Jack Reacher is a nonexistent kind of man. You may secretly wish there were more like him. He is a “homeless” person who is not needy. He is an independent cuss who knows right from wrong but is his own judge and jury. He uses his fists and his native-given “smarts,” or a weapon, if one is at hand. Reacher is a character who has more or less resigned from the human race. He is not greedy, avaricious, or ambitious. He was a military policeman at one time so he’s been there and done that

He dislikes evil and fights it.

I don’t know why it took so long to get a Reacher story on the silver screen. I’ve read almost all of the Child books and I’d advise you to also read some of them before you see the movie. You’ll have a wonderful time, because no matter how you feel about violence — we all harbor a need for justice satisfied, villains punished and no harm to come to our own.

Of course, Lee Child’s hero accomplishes all this for us and then we don’t have to bother with the complexities of acting out judgment on our own situations. Perfect!

Oh yes, Jack Reacher isn’t just handy with his big fists. He is also very smart and the complex plots of some of the novels are intricate and complicated indeed.

Tom Cruise wins high marks from me performing against a known and well-imagined character who he doesn’t physically resemble. But he is movie star enough for this story. He always reaffirms what you already know — that Tom Cruise is capable, talented and able to pull off almost anything any other human being can.

Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed the popular “The Way of the Gun,” has already received critical kudos for “Jack Reacher.” He was Paramount’s excellent choice.

I think you can go see this movie without any misgivings of cultivating extra violence. After all, it’s only a movie. And a good one, at that!

This column originally appeared on on 12/27/12

11 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Liz, it is interesting that practically in the same breath, you say the NRA is in a corner it can’t get out of, then extoll the appeal of the Jack Reacher character… who, albeit fictional, represents exactly what the NRA is calling for in response to bad guys with guns: a good guy with a gun.

    We have armed security guards in banks, corporate offices, gated communities, shopping malls. Some of these places are even frequented by children. The NRA’s stance of providing armed guards in schools is actually pretty run-of-the-mill; some schools already have armed security. Columbine had armed security. We can argue that the Columbine guards were ineffective, but the opportunity to stop the killers was there; no armed guards means no defensive opportunity at all. And then you are left with a 5’2″ unarmed principal sacrificing herself to an assailant in a vain attempt to protect the innocent.

    • avatar TheTexasMom says:

      And Fort Hood was/is a military base, lots of trained good guys there.

      • avatar Lila says:

        If only the good guys had been armed in that case. Like all of the other mass murderers that come to mind, MAJ Hasan went after a group of people he KNEW would all be unarmed.

        Military folks don’t generally walk around garrison armed – just the MPs and gate guards. Troops are also not allowed to keep their privately-owned weapons in the barracks – they have to keep them in the Arms Room and sign them in and out.

  2. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Lila, You are making very valid points…….

  3. avatar Dorothyt says:

    I am so glad you were nice to Tom Cruise.  It seems that his peers dispise him.  I would love to see him win an Oscar, but I doubt he ever will.  Such is the way of Hollywood.

    • avatar jadez says:

      and you feel the need to worship cruise for what reason exactly??

    • avatar TheTexasMom says:

      It seems you either love or hate Tom Cruise; no middle ground. I think he has been given a lot of flack due to his personal life of which no one posting on this site really knows.

  4. avatar Marknfl12345 says:

    I love Liz Smith! I enjoy your column so much, as I always have. You share good information in a bright, clever way. Cindy Adams is not for me. Not that there is any competition.

  5. avatar central coast cabin home says:

    jadez: No Cruise worship here, what would be the need? He is just one good actor who is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. I have always really liked the guy. Who the hell knows about his personal life, we all have one. He gets up in the morning and puts his shoes on just like we do. I imagine he even has indigestion from time to time.

  6. avatar janie k says:

    Well, Jack Reacher was a disappointment at the box office and the reviews were brutal. (See NYT, for one example.) Plus, Rock of Ages tanked as well. So, Cruise hasn’t had a recent hit outside his Mission Impossible films. Not to say he can’t come back, but a lot of people seem to be unable to separate his movies from his personal weirdness.