By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Serviceable but forgettable Cruise thriller is very violent.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Bad guys get what's coming to them, courtesy of Jack Reacher, a loner/vigilante who dispenses his own brand of justice, which mostly bypasses the legal system. That said, there's also the message that it's worth looking beyond appearances to find out the truth.
Positive Role Models
Reacher doesn't hesitate to break the law to achieve his goals -- he participates in assault, auto theft, coercion, intimidation, and outright murder -- but all of his victims have it coming to them. (Well, mostly.) He uses smarts and intuition in many cases (in addition to his more violent methods). Helen is able to separate her emotions from her job.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty of violence right from the start, when a lone gunman shoots five people with a sniper rifle (a scene that's revisited later in the movie). Jack Reacher, the main character, is a former soldier, highly trained with guns and in hand-to-hand combat, and the film finds plenty of chances to showcase his abilities. He takes on a group of toughs in a few street brawls, leaving them bloodied and sometimes with broken bones. Other scenes feature execution-style killings, allusions to torture, and men beating up women. Few of these scenes actually show blood or gore, but they do make it clear that bodies are taking serious damage and the people are in pain, and a few shots may be hard to watch. There's also a high-speed chase through city streets that damages plenty of cars.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One scene shows a woman in her underwear getting dressed; Reacher is shirtless in another. Some sexual tension between the two main characters never leads to anything. One scene has some flirty banter when a woman comes on to Reacher, though he's clearly not interested.
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Relatively infrequent swearing includes a couple uses of "f--k," plus "p---y," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "prick," "damn," "hell," "ass," "goddamn," and more.
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Products & Purchases
Several car brands are mentioned and/or get prominent screen time. Helen drives a Mercedes, and the bad guys spend a lot of time trailing Reacher in an Audi. Another character drives a Cadillac, which is referred to by name. Some of the characters drink Budweiser when relaxing, and Bud signage is visible in the background in a bar.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One scene takes place in a bar where plenty of people in the background are drinking, though Reacher sticks to coffee. He later shares a beer with Helen when they're relaxing in a motel room. References to meth use; drug paraphernalia is shown.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tom Cruise stars as the title character in Jack Reacher, an adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot. Reacher is a former military police offer who's enlisted to find a sniper who fired six shots into a crowd, killing five people. This thriller is violent, and vigilante Reacher shows no qualms breaking the law to make sure justice is done -- at least his version of justice. There's some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and a bit of sexual tension between Reacher and co-star Rosamund Pike, but no actual sex and very little drinking. Still, there are allusions to torture, and the fight scenes are sometimes brutal; a few are very tough to stomach. Even though there's little blood or gore on screen, the film is more appropriate for older teens and up.
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pg-13 What the heck!!!
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What's the Story?
After a lone gunman shoots five people in a random spree of terror, all the evidence points to a former Army sniper, but the suspect makes one request: "Get JACK REACHER." Who's Reacher? A retired soldier, weapons expert, and martial artist who lives off the grid -- no car, no mobile phone, no credit card, no known address. The star of a popular series of novels by author Lee Childs, Reacher (Tom Cruise) travels from town to town, always managing to get himself involved in some kind of adventure. Here, he sets out to make sure the accused gets what he deserves, but soon begins to suspect he may actually be innocent. Working with a defense attorney (Rosamund Pike), Reacher uncovers a dangerous conspiracy run by violent thugs who are eager to shut him up, permanently. Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins co-star.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is muscley but ultimately forgettable entertainment. The story in Jack Reacher has enough twists to keep viewers interested, and Cruise playing stoic, confident, and extremely competent is always watchable. Plus, there are a few set pieces that are good fun. (Watch as Cruise, weary and wary, takes on five punks after warning them they're in for more than they expect -- no spoiler, he wasn't lying.)
But the film lacks momentum. It moves quickly through the action sequences and then too slowly as Cruise and Pike knit together the clues. The villains, led by a shadowy Russian, are generically evil, yet their motivation is unclear. Pike in particular has little to do other than look anxious in her damsel-in-distress role. And the movie seems indulgently violent. Besides the extended opening sequence of one murder after another, there are plenty of other sequences that leave both men and women battered, bloody, and broken. In short, Jack Reacher works as a serviceable thriller, but a masterpiece of the genre? Now that's a reach.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what makes Jack Reacher, which is rate PG-13, different from R-rated films. Is the violence less graphic or upsetting? Why or why not? What impact does seeing this kind of violence have on teens?
What do you think about Jack Reacher's vigilante actions? Is it right for one man to dispense justice to people who are clearly villains?
Why does Jack Reacher live the way he does? How do his actions in this film show what he wants out of life?
- In theaters: December 21, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: May 7, 2013
- Cast: Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, Tom Cruise
- Director: Christopher McQuarrie
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, language and some drug material
- Last updated: December 2, 2022
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