Tom Cruise Jam

Jack Reacher is a drifter, a man of no driving licence or last known address. He’s also a highly decorated former military policeman rank of major. He’s a man with a past.

A beautiful young woman lies dead on the hotel room floor, the victim of a brutal gunshot wound. Misogynist self-help guru Frank Mackey is the only suspect. He’s on trial for his life. The prosecutor is Mitch McDeere, the latest wunderkind of the firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke; a young man with a very promising legal career ahead of him. The prosecution’s star witness John Anderton heads up Precrime, an infallible precognition unit that points the finger at Mackey.

The case is cut and dried. The only thing is – Frank Mackey didn’t do it.

There’s a conspiracy afoot, but even Mackey’s own brief doesn’t seem to believe him. The defendant’s counsel, a hotshot navy lawyer name of Danny Kaffee, is looking for the path of least resistance. Could it be that someone hopes it never sees the inside of a courtroom?

Ethan Hunt of government agency IMF seems to think so. Something about the woman’s murder doesn’t ring true. It puts him in mind of a series of murders carried out via taxi. It puts him in mind of a hit.

More to the point, a hit carried out by someone with a military background.

But there’s a problem – IMF won’t authorise an investigation, in fact stonewalls it. Hunt is concerned – this goes high up. To get to the truth he needs to go off the grid. He needs a man with savant-like investigative skills, a man who can handle himself in a fight, an unstoppable force. A man with a past. A man who doesn’t want to be found.

Trouble is Jack Reacher doesn’t want to be found.

But they don’t call it the Impossible Mission Force for nothing. As the body count mounts to include car dealer narcissist Charlie Babbit and ex-army bartender Brian Flanagan, it becomes clear that someone out there has a grudge. And his next victim: celebrity sports agent and potential future presidential candidate Jerry Maguire.

Together Hunt and Reacher must race against the clock, must face their respective pasts; must face a truth they perhaps can’t handle:

They know the killer.

Could he be the hotshot pilot, Maverick, or superspy Roy Miller, who both trained with Hunt? What of Captain Nathan Algren, alcoholic and samurai, investigated by Reacher? Or the troubled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, likewise the former subject of Reacher’s attentions?

And just how is studio honcho (and Precrime investor) Les Grossman involved?

Luckily, they’re assisted by former special ops turned private sector hitman Vincent, a superlatively skilled assassin with a specialism in identity theft.

Produced by Tom Cruise, with a soundtrack by Stacee Jaxx and a twist you won’t see coming… Nominated for no Academy Awards: this is one shot you won’t want to miss!

In 3D!!!

What’s In A Name?

A boring title can sink a film – a dull albatross round the neck that reeks of self-consciousness and lack of faith.  A boring title says nothing so much as ‘we have no ideas, but we don’t much care.’

Who is Aaron Cross?  An angry bystander name of Aaron?  A vengeful priest?   What if nominative determinism doesn’t apply?  Did you care to find out?  Universal didn’t risk an estimated $125m on that question and instead called their film The Bourne Legacy.

Who is Alex Cross?  Do you know?  Do you care to find out?  The tagline for the film says “Don’t Ever Cross Alex Cross”.   Do you still care to find out?

Well roughly $35m has been bet on you wanting to find out.  Did you know that the character has appeared in two previous films?  Morgan Freeman played him in 1997’s Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider (2001).  This time round it’s Tyler Perry in the now eponymous role.

What about Jack Reacher?  Or Jack Ryan?

Or John Carter (although he deserves a post all of his own).

The Bourne Legacy had a vested interest in maintaining links with the previous trilogy, a byword for quality actioner.  The film poster utilised an eye-catching, if mildly disingenuous, shuttering technique that slightly obscured star Jeremy Renner’s face.  At a casual glance you’d be forgiven for assuming it was Matt Damon again.

Alex Cross and Jack Ryan, however, represent reboots of pre-existing characters, clean slates.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan first appeared onscreen in The Hunt For Red October (1990), in which he was played by Alec Baldwin as a slightly gawky CIA analyst.  Ryan has since been portrayed by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear And Present Danger (1994) as a more straightforward action-oriented character.  Then there was The Sum Of All Fears (2002), in which Ben Affleck did for Jack Ryan what George Clooney did for Batman.

Certainly in Ryan’s case there seems to be some desire on the part of the film-makers to delineate between Chris Pine’s portrayal and previous ones.  The question is whether the name Jack Ryan means enough to people to convince them to hand over their hard-earneds at the mulitplex.  And given the wildly different portrayals of the character, I’m yet to be convinced that the requisite brand recognition exists.

Jack Reacher, on the other hand, is making his debut, based on the book One Shot.  The suspicion here is that the film-makers are making pointed overtures to the existing fanbase – Lee Childs’ creation has starred in 17 books to date.  In theory this should satisfy early box-office requirements, with the crucial word of mouth effect picking up the slack and carrying the film triumphantly into the black.

It’s a fairly high-risk strategy given that the rough and ready, 6”5’ Reacher – a male fantasy figure par excellence – is being played by Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise is a fantastic talent, but Reacher fans have been notable by their dismay at the casting.  Qualms about the relative ages and heights of character and actor have been particularly prevalent.  This seems unfair, given that Reacher’s age is broadly immaterial – it’s enough that he’s experienced, even a little grizzled.  Likewise, his physical size is a device designed to imply his formidable nature – ‘an unstoppable force’ as Childs describes him, which wouldn’t be a bad description of Cruise himself.

The books themselves are reasonably high quality pulpy thrillers, Childs using punchy sentences and dropping otherwise necessary words like ‘the’ to up the pace and instil a sense of immediacy on proceedings.

Height aside, Tom Cruise would seem a good fit for the role – high octane, apparently indestructible with near boundless energy.  Nevertheless, his appears to have been a controversial choice.

The other criticism, however, is possibly insurmountable.  Jack Reacher is hardly Cruise’s first franchise, and from the trailer his Reacher seems indistinguishable from that Mission: Impossible fella, if a little more low-tech.

The risk then is that Tom Cruise may alienate the existing fanbase, while the name Jack Reacher will mean nothing to most people, who’ll assume it’s just another Cruise thriller – he runs around doing his own stunts, things explode, at one point he cracks out his blinding grin, the audience try to stifle their yawns.

Action-thrillers battle it out in a highly competitive market; the one link between all of these characters (John Carter included) is that they have deliberately bland names that give nothing away, especially not their careers or skill set.

And to be fair, when was the last time you met someone called Action McSoldiersson?

Trailers these days tend to give away too much plot and occasionally render actually watching the film in question a redundant exercise.  For these lads, however, an over-sharing cinematic come-on might be their only hope.  Otherwise these films might suffer at the box office, might well be ignored by virtue of ignorance.

James Bond was famously chosen because it was the most unobtrusive and unmemorable name Ian Fleming could dream up.  Today it’s one of the more recognisable monikers out there.  The suspicion lingers that someone somewhere has badly overestimated the affection and notoriety of Jacks Ryan and Reacher and Alex (not Aaron) Cross.