Where next for Jack Reacher?

Feature James Stansfield 21 Jan 2013 - 06:28

With uncertainty surrounding the Jack Reacher's movie future, James looks at which of Lee Child's books might work as a sequel...

Last month saw the long awaited on screen debut for Lee Child’s literary creation Jack Reacher, a film which had been raising eyebrows across the globe since its announcement.

First off, there was the choice of which of Lee Child’s 14 Jack Reacher adventures then published would be used for the character’s debut film - but we’ll get to that later. By far, the news that caused the greatest fuss was the casting of the man who would fill his not so small shoes.

Casting Jack Reacher was always going to be a nightmare. The character’s physical appearance, which had been repeatedly played up in Child’s pages was simply impossible to replicate. It could be argued then that no one was done any favours when Tom Cruise was put in the role.

The general reaction was that Jack Reacher: The Movie was already doomed. No one was going to be able to buy Cruise as the character, and despite Lee Child insisting that Reacher’s physical appearance was a metaphor for an unstoppable force, he really wasn’t fooling anyone, having shoved said appearance heavily down our throats throughout his novels.

Now it's January 2013, and Jack Reacher has been unleashed on the movie going public in all its Cruise-shaped glory. Was it the complete disaster that many had predicted? No, it was actually quite good, thanks in no small part (no pun intended) to Tom Cruise. 

While it wasn’t a performance for the ages, Tom Cruise hit the mark more than not with his portrayal of Reacher. He was helped considerably by director Christopher McQuarrie’s script. McQuarrie played up the non-physical side of Reacher for his movie. Many of Cruise’s lines were short and sharp, all business with little waffle. This was reminiscent of how the Reacher character converses in the book. Exposition was largely left to Rosamund Pike’s lawyer, Helen Rodin.

Cruise also nailed the Reacher attitude. His near ambivalence to the sniper shootings which open the movie was conveyed extremely well. Reacher is a guy who just wants to be left alone, and Cruise made us believe this. Perhaps one of the biggest masterstrokes in McQuarrie’s direction of Cruise was that he'd clearly forbidden Tom from smiling. Cruise raises a smirk or two, but at no point does he flash those pearly whites. Doing so would have immediately destroyed the character.

As a long time Reacher fan, I felt that Cruise did a good enough job with the character. Putting to one side the whole physical appearance thing, everything else about the character was represented well, and although Cruise never approached replacing the image of Reacher I have when reading, he was far from the catastrophe that some had expected.

When a Jack Reacher movie was announced as pressing ahead a couple of years ago, it would have been logical to assume that it would be based on Lee Child’s debut Reacher novel, Killing Floor. It remains one of the best of Child’s books, and although it’s not an origin story for the character, it contains one event which has subsequently been felt throughout the series. So it was with a certain amount of puzzlement to learn that Reacher’s first cinematic outing would be based on his ninth book, One Shot.

One Shot is not a book held in high regard amongst Reacher fans. It is one of, if not the worst of Lee Child’s books starring the character so far. The feeling has always been that its story wasn’t all that inspiring, it was drawn out and just a bit boring. 

In its narrative, One Shot the movie didn’t differ a whole lot from One Shot the book. As is often the way in book to film adaptations, there was a character trimmed here and there, while some characters, notably the villains, had a reduced impact. In the novel there was a much greater exploration of Werner Herzog’s big bad, The Zec. Even then, though, the guy was never one of the best villains that Lee Child has conceived for Jack Reacher.

A lot of reviews heaped praise on Werner Herzog’s villain rather than Cruise’s Reacher, something this writer feels was a total injustice. Half the time Herzog looked utterly bored with everything that was going on around him, and for the other 50 per cent, he was a bit too pantomime. One of the failings of Jack Reacher was that its cookie cutter bad guys could have come from any action movie of the last few years.

In this respect, it could be argued that Christopher McQuarrie chose the wrong book to use as Reacher's launchpad. As entertaining as it is, the film leaves little lasting impression, apart from with Cruise’s central performance. Maybe that was always going to be the way, though. Tom Cruise as Reacher deserved to be the film's focal point. There have been a good number of occasions when films have been accused of letting the bad guys overshadow the heroes - Tim Burton’s Batman movies being one of the best examples. By choosing to go first with one of the lesser books in terms of story and villains, the film leaves the focus on Reacher.

Although Jack Reacher wasn’t an origin story as we’ve become accustomed to in many franchise openers, if its primary aim was to introduce the character for further, more interesting adventures, then McQuarrie made a shrewd, if a little risky, choice in picking this one.

Jack Reacher took $45 million in its opening two weeks in the United States alone. That it cost $60 million to make - a relatively modest amount by current standards - indicates that it will end up in the black for Tom Cruise and Paramount.  Given that most fans seem to have liked Cruise in the role too, then it’d be safe to assume that chins are now being thoughtfully stroked with regards to Jack Reacher 2, although recent news stories may have indicated otherwise. 

Nothing has been announced yet as to which of Lee Child’s novels will form the basis of a sequel should it happen, but both the author and Christopher McQuarrie have made their ideas heard for a more rural set movie.

There’s no shortage of Reacher stories set in a wilderness location, and this must send Killing Floor to near the top of the list. Killing Floor thrusts Reacher straight into the situation of being arrested in a small town over breakfast. It's no nonsense, and now that the character's been introduced, there's no reason that the film couldn’t do the same.

Other Reacher stories that could be an option include Echo Burning, Persuader, Nothing To Lose, 61 Hours and Worth Dying For. The latter of those has already been mentioned as a possibility, and would be a great story to adapt, as it's amongst Child’s best, and features some extremely nasty and memorable bad guys. Some of its plot lines do revolve around the climax to 61 Hours, the book which preceded it, but not so much that it couldn’t be easily worked around.

Lee Child has said that 61 Hours was a favourite for a Jack Reacher movie sequel at one time. It’s a solid offering, but takes place almost completely during a severe snowstorm in South Dakota, with the weather quite integral to the plot. This is something that would push production costs up, no doubt.

Echo Burning and Nothing To Lose suffer a little bit from the same failings as One Shot. Both are better stories on the whole than One Shot, but neither of them has anything all that memorable about them to put them in mind for the big screen treatment. Persuader, on the other hand, would be this writer’s personal choice for Jack Reacher 2. The book sees Reacher going undercover in a remote location with a bad guy he previously believed dead. For twists and tension, it’s the finest of Lee Child’s books yet.

Looking further ahead to a third Jack Reacher movie, there are three novels which immediately seem to lend themselves to this. The Hard Way takes place in the glamorous locations of New York City and erm, Norfolk, but would up the ante by sending Reacher transatlantic. 

Without Fail raises the threat level that Reacher is involved with in a plot revolving around presidential assassination. It also introduces one of the few recurring characters in the series, Frances Neagley, described as a female version of Reacher, which would bring another element to the franchise.

Or, if Paramount wants to go for a more ensemble piece (as Child once suggested), following in the footsteps of Cruise’s other blockbuster series Mission: Impossible, then Bad Luck And Trouble, in which Reacher reunites with his old military police unit, including Frances Neagley, might definitely be ripe for the character’s third outing.

If Tom Cruise were to decide he didn’t want to return to the role, then an easy get out clause would be to choose to adapt one of the two books which take place earlier in Reacher’s life. Of those, The Affair would be the most suitable. It’s a small town thriller which tells the story of just how Reacher became the wanderer he is today - essentially his origin story. One name that has been banded about as a possible Cruise replacement for Reacher is Ryan Gosling. If he can sort out the horrible weedy voice he employed in Gangster Squad, then he could certainly make for a decent, younger Jack Reacher.

At the moment, the jury is still out on whether Reacher will return to the big screen, with the film still to open in some parts of the world. It’d be nice to see Tom Cruise given another chance to play the character after he impressed with what was a poor story on the whole. Given the popularity of Child’s books, it’s hard to believe that Jack Reacher won’t return on screen in some way, shape or form. What that will be, for now, remains to be seen.

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Good article. Still not seen the film unfortunately as am a huge fan of the books. Totally agree that Persuader should be filmed though, such a great book

If Tom Cruise was 6ft 2" (I know thats not Reachers size) it would have been perfect!
Like you said nailed the attitude, it was just that slight niggle in the back of your head saying "hes not tall enough"
Hence why if he was 6ft 2" i think they would have pulled it off better.
other than that it was a good film

You left out (for me) the best reacher novel in the series - Trip Wire. Hook Hobie is a brilliant villain, and it gives the chance for alot more action with the Vietnam flashbacks. It also shows Reachers standing within the military as he is able to get alot of help from old friends.

I read Killing Floor before I went and saw Jack Reacher and I thought the Cruise did a good job with the role. I enjoyed the movie and I was happy that I couldn't guess who was helping The Zec before the big reveal.

If another movie was made I'd go see it, but honestly I thought Killing Floor was a bit of a dull read so another book would work just fine for me.

For me, ever since reading the books, in my mind I've always pictured thomas jane as reacher. Basically his punisher in a jack reacher story

Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher!!! he is not tall enough SORRY

I really enjoyed the film. It was marketed as an action movie, but it's really a thriller/mystery procedural with a car chase and a bonus car chase and shootout. It made a nice change from all the superhuman stuff we've had in recent years...

I can tell whenever someone is lying about being a fan of Reacher when they say that Tom Cruise nailed the overall "essence" of Reacher. If you're such a Reacher fan, ask yourself a question: Did you ever feel intimidated by Tom Cruise once throughout the entire movie?

Cruise is not a terrible actor by any means, and I like most of his films, but no amount of acting from Cruise can create the screen menace that this role requires. There are actors who can portray this menace who are not very big, Cruise is just not one of those guys.

Any fan of this book, wouldn't spend one single sentence trying to justify Cruise in this role, because the reality is he's just not a good fit for it. You can say he did an admirable job, or did the best that he could, but you can't say he nailed Reacher, because he just ain't got those tools in his toolbox.

The other thing I always think about when I see these types write-ups are if you thought the movie was so good, how much better would it have been if they would have cast the character correctly?

No matter how you slice it, this film would have been better served with the correct casting of Reacher. Those who hated it, and those who loved it all would have been much happier with a real Jack Reacher on the screen.

I dont like what Lee Child has said about his size being a metaphor but Cruise did a fantastic job with the character and made me want to see more as soon as i left the cinema!

I love the Lee Child books and finish them in a day as I can't put them down. I thought the Jack Reacher film was an ok adaptation of the books. In MY opinion, Tom Cruise was never going to pull off Jack Reachers presence or stature. When I read about Jack Reacher, I wet myself thinking thank god it's not me about to take this hiding. IF the next film does go ahead, please make it someone whom, when you look at them, the blood drains from your face and then you think f&&k!!

My pics for Reacher would be Ray Stevenson (#1), Dolph Lundgren would be perfect for portraying Reacher, actually, they could easily make him look younger if need be, right now (he just earned his 5th or 6th don in Kyrushin Karate, I misspelled that, I apologize. HE's VERY combative, and in amazing shape. I also think, while limited, he's a very underrated action actor and could carry the Reacher role to perfection). Stevenson would definitely work, he could be made to look younger, he's about 10-15 years younger than Lundgren, though Lundgren looks pretty young for a guy pushing his mid 50s .

Though he still actively competes and fights, his fighting style in many of his recent movies, especially stuff like The Expendables and Command Performance, are reminscent of Reacher's style. In Command Performance, the villain was actually bigger, both muscularly and in height, and was a highly trained spec-ops. Re-watching that fight reminds me of several of Reacher's great fights.

There are a few other actors around 6'2 (With some small lifts and camera angles it'd work) all the way up to 6'6 that I think would work. Lundgren is probably the least wooden on the list. My most extreme and probably most likely to be bashed one is Dwayne Johnson, I understand he is way more muscular than Reacher is supposed to be, but I also think he'd do a great job in the role, and could either tone down or wear leather jackets, etc. Plus they could find bigger guys for him to fight and Dwayne looks taller than he is, due to his overall size.

I truly believe Ray Stevenson is Jack Reacher, he was great in Punisher: War Zone (the movie itself wasn't too great, as a Punisher fan it was a huge letdown, since I saw Punisher in Ray for the firs ttime, though I LOVE Thomas Jane's take and have a small appreciation for Dolph's take.)....I know I have two guys who've done Punisher but Jack is very much like a Frank Castle who, if he'd been born a decade later, and was an MP with no family or tie-downs, and was not a veteran of war, he could be very similar to Jack Reacher, with a hint of Dexter Morgan, since he loves killing more than Reacher, though Reacher is certainly a psychopath.

You should read persuader or tripwire. In my opinion those are the two most action packed, suspenseful and just awesome books of Lee Child.They should definitely make the next movie out of one of those.

I think Liam Neeson would have done better.

Cruise is an awful, pipsqueak actor. Not meant for this role. Turned me off to this movie, and any future Reacher movies. Too bad they didn't get a real actor.

I thought I would like the movie, even with Cruise, because he's generally good in everything. But he wasn't that good in this movie, it turns out. He was just so generic! No menace whatsoever. The thing that really got to me is a line in the movie where they are questioning the motel receptionist about where Reacher is, and she directs them to the room with a line like, "you'll know why when you see him". Which, in the book, was referring to his huge size, but made no sense in the movie. Bad editing. It was a case of the screen dialog sticking to the book a little too much!

I think Gerard Butler would be an absolute perfect Reacher. But Ray Stevenson works for me too.

"Cruise also nailed the Reacher attitude." Nah. The real Reacher is much less somber and much more of a smartass. Which is what you can be when you're 6'5" and 230-250 pounds.

While neither my wife or I are Tom Cruise fans by any stretch of the imagination, we both thought he was very good as Jack Reacher. However, having said that, I must confess we have not read any of the Reacher books, so I don't really know if Cruise was true to the character. Most, if not all, of TC's movies generally are quite boring and that's due to a lack of an interesting story in most cases. It's like they feel all they have to do is drop Cruise into a lame script and it will make money. He's really not a very good actor, much like Brad Pitt, but teenage girls don't care. It's all visual for them. Anyway, I'd like to see more films on the Reacher character, no matter who plays the part.

Tom Cruise cannot be Jack Reacher. He's too short. His hands are too small. Cruise is a small man; Reacher is massive. Why does Hollywood pick the wrong person to portray someone so well described? Every Reacher novel describes Reacher to the point that we can see him clearly except for the fine details of his face. It's not the first time Hollywood has done this kind of hack job. They should do better. Not fair to the real fans.

The best guy for the next Reacher movie must be Hugh Jackman! he has the right build, he is a great actor and can look pretty nasty - a perfect reacher!

You are absolutely right Ryan! And another thing why introduce that boring car chase? (except for the end of it that was funny) Reacher is a terrible driver...Mr Child says so in almost every book! Don't these guys do any research whatsoever??

I disagree, Cruise is a good actor I have seen many movies in which he excelled, but he was just not right for the part ...it was like asking meryl Streep to play Superman...NBG!

Thomas Jane would be good or Hugh Jackman or Ron Perlman Hellboy) would be great, he has great timing with wisecracks.

I really wish they would get Jim Caviezel to play Jack Reacher. If you have ever seen Person of Interest I think you would agree. Jim is made for this part.

Eric Dane....6'2" would be a perfect Jack Reacher. He has all the right expressions and I hear his voice when I read the books. Granted he's not 6'5", but he has the right build....6'5" gives you Dolph Lundgren, Tim Robbins, Vince Vaughn, Armie Hammer, Tyler Perry and David Hasslehorf....does anyone see Jack Reacher in that group?? 3" too short is much better than 10" too short....Eric Dane is perfect. Cruise did a good job, but he is not Jack Reacher.

I have read every novel and enjoy the character tremendously. In my humble "opinon", the reacher novels would be best served as a HBO series. As to who could pull it off? Hmm. Certainly NOT T. Cruise. Of the current list of 6' + hollywood actors, my vote would be for Joe Manganiello. Not perfect, but he does have the ability, size and youth to cover the spectrum of years. Reacher is a perfect fit for HBO or one of the other cable networks. Wether they would follow the books accurately, not sure. However, It certainly makes more sense than continuing with T. Cruise. I enjoyed the movie but, Cruise just does not fit the bill for my taste and vision of Lee Child's creation as developed in the books.

i agree 1000% I actually watched the movie first then decided to read a few of the books. I was really shocked at how off-base that decision was. I would love to see a Jack who is a huge beast of a man play that part.

The truth is that the author paints a pretty vivid picture of what the character looks like, his build, his temperament and how hard the military police had to be. Since they had to restrain and arrest any serviceman from special forces to specialist combat personnel, these guys had to be rougher and tougher that some very big guys. Where you have size, bulk, fitness and ability the Reachers' of military life had to have the edge. Height, weight and smarts would give them that small edge. Attitude and to be prepared to do what is necessary is part of it, but only a small part that is shared by the bad guys military police would have come up against. Yes, Cruise had the chiseled face and the attitude but I missed the fact that the character has an imposing stature and stood out in a crowd. He also looked like a bum most of the time. Clint Eastwood in his younger days would have fitted the role if he had an extra 50lbs of muscle. He had size, was imposing and had attitude. Thomas Jane could have been okay but his looks are in the past whereas Eastwood maintained a lean mean attractiveness for women. If Hagrid can look like a giant in the Potter movies I think that something could have been done with Tom Thumb...sorry Tom Cruise to give him what his Reacher lacked. I mean, my Reacher, the one planted in my head by Lee Child. Maybe Lee Child can act...why not...he'd be a pretty good Jack Reacher.

I agree that there are some issues with Cruises height, build etc But...I am in total agreement that he is a perfect fit for Reachers attitude. Other suggestions like Hugh Jackman, Jim Cavizel etc are all well and good for the physicality of the role. But there are literally thousands of huge actors who could play that side, what makes Reacher different is that he doesn't have the what I imagine to be rage face. He will dispatch his opponents with overwhelming force and then carry on like he stepped on a bug, this was conveyed superbly by Cruise. People need to think more about this side of the character not just the size

Two guys I would cast as Jack Reacher would be either Mathue Fox or Josh Halloway from Lost, they both around 6.2. Matthew Fox looks more like I imagined Reacher in the books. But I wonder if a TV show would be better than a Movie, something based on the lines of the old Invaders tv show

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