Jack Reacher (2012)

Published: Aug 5, 2013 |Updated: Mar 8, 2023


Jack Reacher is a movie about stoic, shut down men who use other people for their own selfish gains. Jack is the lesser evil, a former military police investigator invested in finding the truth about a mysterious shooting incident. It’s a movie that effectively shows the flatness of male caricatures that riddle Hollywood movie screens. It’s also quite a fun-filled action ride.

Genre Action
Production year 2012
Director Christopher McQuarrie
Male actors Tom Cruise, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog

Macho Stereotypes in Jack Reacher

This is a bitesized review

The bitesized reviews are shorter and more informal reviews than the in-depth ones.

You think I’m a hero? I’m not a hero. And if you’re smart, that scares you. Because I have nothing to lose.

So goes one of the hard-ass lines in the trailer for Jack Reacher (below), a 2012 action movie that I’ve been curious about for quite some time. I rented it on iTunes the other day and having seen it, I was left somewhat conflicted. The movie is quite entertaining. It’s got some exciting action, involving both a mandatory car chase and a shootout in an abandoned quarry. I’m not above some good action.

The thing that was harder to stomach was how caricatured all the characters were. Jack Reacher is a man apparently devoid of emotion. He is a stoic, self-righteous, uncompromising man. The kind of man that doesn’t function real well in the world. The kind of man that sits at home at night drinking whiskey, hating himself and wondering when it’s time to commit suicide.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not real clear on why so many movies still idealize men like that. What is the cultural narrative that asks us to invest in two-dimensional cardboard men as somehow the saviors of the world? One still stuck in repression of male emotion and vulnerability.

Jack Reacher is a product of an older cultural myth of a man of his own conviction that lives above the law on horseback out on the prairie. For some reason, Americans have always dug men who are above the law. It’s a culture that simultaneously celebrates and severely punishes men who are above the law. Seems a bit messed up to me.

Now it’s gotta be said – Jack Reacher plays with the hero role real well. Jack Reacher is above the law, but he knows he is dodgy. He doesn’t think he’s a great hero. I’m not a hero, he says. I like that about him. Okay, so he is an anti-hero. Not the guy you’d want to marry your daughter. But still, somehow, a guy you kind of admire, huh? Why? I think it’s because he doesn’t play by any rules but his own. In a world where so many guys have become submissive pushovers, that possibility is tantalizing. He is also physically powerful and mentally able, something all men deep down aspire to.

So that’s cool. The only problem? He’s not real. And with most people not real, he does not need to adhere to the laws of the human being. The history of movies are riddled with male protagonists who are tough on screen, but who in real life would be basket cases suffering everlasting torment from the weight of their actions. See, actions have consequences. On the psyche.

When men who have not yet become powerful start investing their dreams in superhero-like characters like Jack Reacher, all they have to go by is the feeling of power and vitality pumping through their veins when watching. They are not privy to seeing the absolute psychological carnage that, in the real world, plagues any man of such character.

So while Jack Reacher is in many ways a great and entertaining movie, I really had to overcome my desire to feel that it took place in reality before I could immerse myself in it completely. At least, not in MY reality. If any man would live like Jack, or worse yet the evil, laughably one-dimensional “Zec” played be Werner Herzog, he would have to shut down his emotions completely in order to live with it. And that’s what I see happening in this movie. Lots of shut down men. America worships them. So does much of the rest of the world. Long live the Hercules complex!

I wish the misguided young men of the world realized that becoming shut down is not a desirable outcome. With so many of them still pursuing the myth of the John Wayne ride lonesome into the sunset type of guy  while in reality being deeply sensitive human beings – we are going to have hordes of miserable men on our hands.

And while we must all move through the red knight/David Deida 1st stage territory, it wouldn’t hurt with more movies out there showcasing male characters that have both spine and heart, courage and vulnerability at the same time.

Should you watch Jack Reacher? Probably! If you like a pretty good action movie that is intensely American (violence, conspiracies, secrets, hidden forces, danger lurking everywhere, superhuman courage etc), you’ll love it. Have fun!

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