Film: Jack Reacher

Detective Emerson: So what does an Army cop do, mostly? Break up bar fights?
Jack Reacher: I did what you do pretty much, with one minor difference.
Emerson: What's that?
Reacher: Every suspect was a trained killer.

Jack Reacher is an adaptation of Lee Child's 2005 novel One Shot.

A man with a sniper rifle goes to a parking garage overlooking the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, and kills five people across the river in the park, seemingly at random. The police are quick to find evidence and the man, James Barr. When they have him in for questioning, he writes "GET JACK REACHER" on a notepad. Before they can contact Reacher, the man is brutally beaten by fellow inmates.

Reacher arrives and begins to examine the case, discovering the murders are not as cut-and-dry as they seem...

Tropes in Jack Reacher:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: When Jack asks Sandy why an intelligent, attractive, and nice teenage girl like her would put up with losers like Jeb Oliver and his crew, she says: "It's what girls like me do." She even hits on Jack again, because she believes he's a bad boy or at least a strong man.
  • Asshole Victim: Barr's first set of victims in Iraq were shot leaving something they called a "rape rally".
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Jack sums up that this is the important result of military training, as opposed to strength, stamina or fearlessness. It's also why Jack decides Barr didn't commit the murders; if he'd carried out the attacks according to said training, most if not all of the Orgy of Evidence that lead the police to him wouldn't have been found.
    (Training) makes people who aren't necessarily smart seem smart by beating some tactical awareness into them.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Prior to the fight outside the bar:
    Jeb: Hey, outside!
    Jack: Pay your check first.
    Jeb: I'll pay later.
    Jack: You won't be able to.
    • And this quote which Jack gives via a phone:
    Jack: I mean to beat you to death, and drink your blood from a boot.
    • And this exchange with Gary:
    Gary: Well, I need to see something.
    Reacher: How about the inside of an ambulance?
  • Badass Driver: While Jack has been described as an average to poor driver in the novels, he's quite the driver in the film (in which all the stunts were done by Tom Cruise).
  • Battle in the Rain: The final battle takes place in the middle of the rain.
  • Big Bad: The Zec.
  • Brand X: While Pittsburgh natives may recognize some landmarks and store locations, all the names have been changed, including the stadiums. This becomes a key point, where Reacher wonders which store the girl might be talking about when mentioning "the auto part store". He finds her quickly, which wouldn't happen in Real Life Pittsburgh, where most people would think of Advanced Auto Parts, of which there are over a dozen locations in the city and the surrounding area.
  • Chase Scene: Reacher engages in a car chase with Charlie, Emerson, and the police after Reacher finds he is framed for murdering Sandy.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. Several Mooks are shot or shot at through solid objects; while at one point, Jack is realistically (and thus, only temporarily) protected by boxes filled with paper.
  • Convenient Coma: Barr is attacked during transport to prison, rendering him comatose. This is to make sure he can't dispute the apparent facts of the case.
  • Cold Sniper: Barr and the murderer are portrayed this way.
  • Complexity Addiction: The Zec and his men, explained away as "we make things messy now [by killing anything that is a threat to our operations and strong-arming anybody we leave alive] so it doesn't gets messy later". Turns out that performing the massacre on the opening scene of the film would have made an investigator poke at it more thoroughly once some details are brought to light even before Reacher arrived if not for the fact that the chief investigator of it was on their take.
  • Creator Cameo: Lee Child appears as a desk sergeant in one scene.
  • Creepy Monotone: The Zec.
  • Dark and Troubled Past/Mysterious Past: The Zec.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Reacher and Gunny.
  • Defensive Failure: Jack is attacked by a pair of bumbling criminals inside a narrow bathroom and hallway. After dispatching them, a third criminal points a gun to his head. Jack calmly turns around and informs the criminal that he should shoot now. Naturally, the criminal is quickly disarmed immediately after.
  • Determinator: Jack Reacher, as well as the Big Bad. The latter has "whatever it takes to survive" as his unofficial motto.
  • Dirty Cop: Emerson. When Helen asks him why he's working for The Zec, all he gives as explanation is "You make it sound like they gave me a choice".
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    Helen: What more do you want? They were five innocent people. Senselessly murd — I'm sorry, can you please put a shirt on?
    Jack: This is my shirt.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Reacher ends up having to do this with Sandy.
    Reacher: I can't afford you.
    Sandy: I'm not a hooker.
    Reacher: Oh, then I really can't afford you.
    Sandy: Seriously, I work at the auto parts store.
    Reacher: What I mean is, the cheapest woman tends to be the one you pay for.
    Sandy: I am NOT a hooker!
    Reacher: (giving up) Well, a hooker would get the joke.
  • The Dragon: Charlie.
  • Enemy Mine: Barr is invoking a form of this when he asks Emerson and Rodin to find Jack Reacher. Reacher despises Barr for his crime in Baghdad that he got away with and even promised to bring him down if he ever slipped up again. But Barr also knows Reacher's the only man who can see through the evidence and determine that Barr wasn't the shooter and figure out who framed him.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Big Bad is only known as The Zec, Serbian for "prisoner." He says he forgot his real name during his time in prison.
  • Fair Play Whodunnit: A surprising place for it, but adhered to religiously. All the information Jack needs to solve the crime is provided in the first five minutes of the movie, the viewer just has to realize that everything is important;
    • The setup: Five people (one sitting on a park bench, four walking around) murdered by a sniper from across a river, the location verified by shell casings on the scene. A quarter recovered from a nearby parking meter has the murderer's thumbprint on it, and a sixth bullet recovered from the attack matches a precision rifle in his possession.
    • The payoff: It's an Orgy of Evidence, meant to cover for a set of Serial Killings, Specific Target. A sniper skilled enough to make five kills at that range would never choose to fire from across a river, with targets walking left and right, unless there was no other choice - a preferred sniping position is where targets have to walk towards or away from the shooter, such as a nearby bridge where one could fire from inside a vehicle, which would also prevent shell casings from being lost. The first target was sitting still, which would let the sniper determine windage and bullet drop, meaning the second target was the intended one. Also, a sniper skilled enough to make five kills at that range and that position wouldn't have missed with the sixth - unless it wasn't a miss, but a successful shot into a target which ensured that a pristine bullet would be recovered. Finally, the only sniper who would pay for parking would be one who wanted to leave evidence behind - and the only cop who would check the meter would be one who was part of the conspiracy.
    • The killer is clearly shown, face and all, twice, during the first two minutes of the movie - and he looks nothing like Barr (shown a few mins later). If people commonly could remember even big details like that, the movie would be rather boring.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Charlie turns on the charm right before he murders Sandy.
  • Final Boss: Charlie, who is the only one to give Reacher a decent fight in the climax.
  • Fingore: Zec had to bite off most of his fingers during his imprisonment in Siberia. He tests the fortitude of one his hired men by forcing him to try to do the same. This might seem unfair, as the reason the Zec bit off the fingers of his left hand was because said fingers had become frostbitten - his jailers refused to give him medical care, so he had to gnaw them off or die of gangrene. It was gross, but dead flesh has no nerves, so it wasn't any more painful than chewing off fingernails. However, he chewed off the fingers of his right hand without any such advantage, purely to avoid being worked to death in the sulfur mines.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the movie actually takes a break from the investigation of James Barr to show video of each person who ended up shot going about their business leading up to being shot in the park, you know one of them will actually be important to the plot or they would simply be mentioned in an offhand manner.
    • Mooks have a tendency to meet up in places where road construction is going on, such as next to Jeb's house. The Big Bad's legal business front is a construction company.
    • Charlie is alerted when Helen and Reacher ask the police for a license plate registration check. A certain dirty cop is monitoring their case.
  • Frameup: Sandy is murdered and Reacher is framed for it, as an attempt to tie up both loose ends. James Barr is also being framed, the reason Reacher is involved in the first place.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Reacher can come across as a real asshole, often insulting and bullying people even if it's for a good cause. And at the end, he has no interest in leaving the Zec's fate up to the law.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Downplayed, but no less effective; in the bathroom fight scene, Reacher knocks down one guy onto another and smashes the top guy's head into the bottom guy's until both are out.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted, twice.
    • In the flashback about James Barr's psychotic episode, his silencer only hides the muzzle flash and somewhat dampens the sound; the gunshots are still more than loud enough to cause echoes.
    • When Charlie fires a silenced handgun, the sound is (correctly) the high-pitched metallic clang of the pistol's action rather than the standard Hollywood pfft.
  • Homeless Hero: Reacher lives almost completely off the grid, the only means of tracking him being his withdrawals from a military pension account (which would require a federal warrant). He lives out of motels and gets his clothes from the Goodwill. He explains that he does this to be free, pointing out that all the normal trappings of life serve to limit that freedom, and even wonders how many others would do the same if they could.
  • Hostage Situation: Lampshaded by Reacher when Helen is kidnapped;
    Reacher: You'll bounce me around to make sure I'm not followed, then walk me into an ambush and kill me.
    • He then goes on to be the first action hero in history to not only Defy but Invert it - He's got all the evidence he needs, so unless they give up their location so he can come try and kill them when he is damn good and ready, he'll just cut his losses and hand everything to the FBI.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Gunny in the final shootout, considering he's deliberately trying to avoid lethal shots. This makes some of his shots, like the wounding of one of the badguys straight through a wall or a quick, hasty shot that knocked the rifle out of Charlie's hand, all the more impressive.
  • Infant Immortality: In the opening sniper scene, Barr's final target is a young woman running for safety, carrying a child with her. While we never see that bullet's impact, it is later mentioned in passing that the little girl survived.
  • It's Personal: During the final showdown, Reacher catches the Zec's Dragon off-guard and has him at gunpoint. Rather than simply gun him down, Reacher has him disarm then fights him hand-to-hand, making good on his earlier Badass Boast in retaliation for Sandy's death.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: When Reacher confronts Charlie, he disarms him, then throws away his own gun so they can have a fistfight.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: For some reason, the trailer for the movie featured an exploding cliff. Regardless of the exploding cliff having something to do with the movie, not one explosion ever occurred in the movie.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Repeatedly;
    • A Mook leaping to this conclusion not only costs him is life, but provides the best lead Jack gets.
    • The reason for the initial killing; a woman won't sell her company, so the Zec decides she must be killed.
    • Decided, of all people, by the protagonist, Jack Reacher himself at the end, when Zec points out that the law will never punish him.
  • Named After Someone Famous/Theme Naming: Whenever Reacher needs an alias, he uses the name of a former Yankees second baseman. Gunny is the only one who immediately sees through the fake name.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: At the end, Jack has killed all of the witnesses against the Zec, leaving murder as the only way to bring him to justice.
  • Out-of-Character Alert / Spotting the Thread: the Army goes to great expense and effort to train snipers in such a way that Barr shouldn't have left any of the Orgy of Evidence.note 
  • Oh Crap!:
    • When Reacher tracks down Sandy after the bar fight:
      Sandy: Shit!
    • The look on the Zec's face when the man who would do anything to survive realizes he's just talked himself into a death sentence.
    • In the epilogue, Barr's reaction to the crimes he's accused of (now that he can't remember not doing them) is equal parts regret for supposedly doing them and fear of what Reacher will do to him as a result.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Reacher quickly realizes that this is the case against James Barr. Too bad he missed the key element until the very end; only a sniper who wants to plant evidence would pay for parking and thereby leave a thumbprint on the quarter, but only a crooked cop would know to look for said quarter.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Reacher. He's The Big Guy in the books, but Cruise is far from sizeable.
  • Pittsburgh: A lot of footage of the Allegheny River across from PNC Park and the Fort Duquesne Bridge. (In fact, you can see the sniper's nest in the Pittsburgh page image, between the closest two bridges on the left. Gives you an idea of how far he was shooting, too). However, at no point is the location actually explicitly specified in the story, probably due to the rather ripped from the headlines nature of the storyline and its similarity to numerous real-life multiple shootings. This is faithful to the source book, which also hints at but doesn't explicitly specify the location, which is unusual for Reacher.
  • Precision F-Strike: Emerson and Rodin ask Helen where Reacher is. She says she doesn't know, and Rodin tells Emerson he thinks she's telling the truth. Helen spits back, "Oh, you 'think', Dad?! Fuck you!"
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: When the Zec taunts Reacher at the end to see which one of them will go to prison, Reacher replies, "My bet? Neither one." He then shoots the Zec in the head.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Reality Ensues: Repeatedly, to the point of Deconstruction.
    • Real Bar Fights are usually very low key; most so-called "tough guys" are unskilled at teamwork, unfamiliar with pain or a confident opponent, and a trained fighter will seriously wreck their shit - even five-on-one.
    • Your average Mook is just an average human being, clumsy and unfamiliar with combat - QED Two guys with a crowbar and an aluminum baseball bat attack Reacher in a bathroom. It's hard to tell which takes more damage from their efforts - the bathroom or each other.
    • The purpose of a gun is to shoot someone from more than a few feet away - A third guy sticks a gun in Reacher's face, he slaps it aside, grabs it and traps the guy's hand in the trigger guard to torture information and the keys to his car out of him.
    • Car Chases have a significant obstacle - other cars. So Reacher breaks line-of-sight, abandons the car, and blends into a crowd that is quite willing to harbor him.
    • Not every theory the protagonist comes up with is correct; see Red Herring
    • Just because you meet a Cool Old Guy who owns a lot of guns and is sympathetic to your cause doesn't mean he's willing to kill strangers for you or let you shoot strangers with guns he owns.
    • A Badass capable of realistically surviving an Action Movie is not charismatic, he is fucking terrifying.
  • Red Herring:
    • Reacher spots a possible connection between two of the victims, who he suspects were having an affair. This has nothing to do with why it happened, only serving as an example of how what seems like a coincidence may be something more.
    • Later on, Reacher realizes someone on the prosecution is involved with the frame-up. He believes the most likely candidate is Helen's father, the undefeated district attorney. This turns out to be simply wrong.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Zec is convinced that he'll avoid prison after all his mooks have been killed, reasoning that the former military homeless guy is a much more likely suspect than a nameless old man missing several fingers; and Jack has just killed all of the other witnesses. Reacher agrees... then kills him in cold blood.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: The owner of a local construction company was the intended victim. The other four murders were just to disguise this.
  • Sherlock Scan: Reacher is pretty good at these, probably due to his wide range of experience as a former military policeman.
  • Shout-Out: Both of Reacher's aliases (Aaron Ward and Jimmie Reese) were baseball players for the New York Yankees.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Other than the official records they have on him from his time in the military, nobody knows anything about Jack Reacher other than he exists, is out there somewhere, and is a total Bad Ass.
  • Silence Is Golden: The first line of dialogue is not spoken until eight and a half minutes into the film; the entire opening murder and the police investigation into it are conducted without dialogue. Multiple later sections of the film are also conducted with no dialogue whatsoever, such as the car chase and the Battle in the Rain near the end of the movie.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Jack lists four different types of soldiers that he knew from experience — Military Brats who followed their parents into the military, patriots, people looking for work, and people who join so that they can kill without repercussions. James Barr was the last type, having eventually snapped and gone on a shooting rampage in Baghdad just so that he could feed his urge to kill; the only reason he got away with it was because, unbeknownst to him, his victims all had it coming, and the PMC that they worked for didn't pursue justice because they knew that the victims' crimes would be exposed if they did so. Charlie is implied (stated in the book) to be ex-military, and is a stone-cold killer.
  • Spotting the Thread: The film is basically a series of these.
    • Reacher fully believes that Barr is the shooter and is there only to make sure he goes down...until he sees the quarter with Barr's fingerprint on it with the evidence. Not only does it make no sense for Barr to make sure he's paid the parking meter right before shooting five random people in cold blood, but it also makes no sense for Emerson to investigate the meter unless he knew the quarter would be there beforehand.
    • Next, with a seed of doubt in his mind, Reacher investigates the location of the shooting and deems it a poor vantage point due to the location of the sun and targets moving left-and-right. He finds another location nearby that would have been ideal for a shooter and would have prevented empty shells from being left behind as evidence. He also discovers that Barr was deemed a merely 'decent' sniper while in the Army and wasn't good enough to shoot so accurately from a non-ideal location.
    • All six shots that the sniper fired came in quick succession...except for a several second pause between shot one and two. Reacher determines that this means the sniper was extra careful with his second shot, meaning the second target was killed for an actual purpose. Serial Killings, Specific Target.
    • Five of the shots the sniper took were perfect, while the fourth shot missed by a lot and ended up in a location where the bullet would be preserved perfectly to be used for evidence. Reacher reasons that the shooter intentionally put one of his rounds in a perfect location to be found by police for the evidence in the case against Barr.
    • Reacher uses a fake name when Sandy approaches him at a bar, and sees she's thrown by it even though she had no reason to be. From this, and the barfight that follows, he believes that someone is trying to run him off the case, which leads to him eventually blowing the entire plan.
    • Jeb hasn't been seen for awhile by his friends, who all think he's left town. Reacher checks his house and finds evidence that Jeb quickly packed some things and left...except the shower curtain is gone too, leading him to think that someone (who wasn't very smart) simply raided the house to make it look like Jeb had left. Or perhaps the curtain was torn down in a struggle. Or made an ideal drop cloth for a body.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The movie begins with Charlie sniping at five innocent bystanders from a parking garage.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Reacher attacks a building and takes out the guards, only to find out Helen is being kept in another building.