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Film / Jack Reacher

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"You think I'm a hero? I am not a hero. I'm a drifter with nothing to lose."
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 a 2012 American action thriller film. It is an adaptation of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, the 2005 novel One Shot more specifically.

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 and rendered comatose.

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

It was followed up in 2016 by Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, based on the 2013 Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back. The 2022 series Reacher is a Continuity Reboot that is not connected to the films.

Jack Reacher contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Toward Tom Cruise and his obligatory Once per Episode chase on foot in almost every single film he's starring in.
    Gunny: Well, you can always start running.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Of a villainous variety. The worst thing that Jeb and Sandy do is try to have Reacher beat up. In the book, they're more deeply involved in The Zec's crimes, with Jeb killing Oline's husband and Sandy acting as a Honey Trap so Barr won't have an alibi for the murders.
  • 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.
  • Amoral Attorney: Alex Rodin, the Pittsburgh District Attorney, got his fame as an undefeated prosecutor because he bullied many criminals into signing confessions without any further investigation or allowing them to see their attorneys first. Helen Rodin, the DA's own daughter, is pretty sure that many innocent people have ended up in jail or worse as a result and takes the Barr case to fight this. Both Helen and Reacher believe that Rodin is in bed with Lebendauer because of this, but he turns out to be a Red Herring.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: When Helen tries to convince the Zec that having her (the District Attorney's daughter) as a hostage is a pretty bad idea (as in using her for leverage for the DA to "forget" the case), the Zec's response is simply that he will do such horrible things to both her and the DA that the only option they will have is to forget.
  • 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, in the film, save for having crashed into a fire hydrant and overshot a turn, he's quite the driver (in which all the stunts were done by Tom Cruise).
  • Bathroom Brawl: Jack gets attacked by two idiot Mooks with a crowbar and an aluminum baseball bat in a bathroom.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final battle takes place in the middle of the rain.
  • Big Bad: The Zec is the man behind the killings.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The name of the Big Bad's company, Lebendauer, is just one S short of "Lebensdauer", which is German for "lifespan" or "lifetime". This ties nicely into said Big Bad's rants about survival and lifelong prison sentences.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: A lucky shot by Gunny manages to hit Charlie's sniper rifle, disabling it and forcing him to trade in for a standard rifle that will require him to fight Reacher on even terms.
  • 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. Oh, and the name of "the auto parts store" turns out to be "Default Auto Parts".
  • The Brute: Jeb, hired muscle meant to intimidate or kill Reacher, played with as he isn't a good fighter or very strong.
  • Call-Back: Reacher suspects Barr is being set up because the shots were made from a poor vantage point, especially when a significantly better one was close by. When Barr wakes up at the end of the movie, he can't remember what happened. Helen asks him to identify where he would've made the shots based on photographs. Barr selects Reacher's location, naming all the reasons Reacher said he would.
  • Canon Foreigner: All of the shooting victims besides Oline Archer (none were named in the book and she was the only woman killed in the book while here, only one of the victims was a man).
  • 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. Jack, meanwhile, is realistically (and thus, only temporarily) protected by several stacks of boxes filled with paper, which is a lot more material the bullets need to penetrate. When Reacher takes cover at the quarry, he either chooses large rocks or huge construction vehicles that are more than thick enough to absorb rifle fire.
  • 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. The fact that he wasn't actually beaten to death (as likely intended) ends up being a plot point for the epilogue. Barr tearfully admits to having done the shooting despite not even remembering it, but when Helen asks him how, he tells her exactly how he would have done it (which matches with what Reacher believes Barr would have done if he was guilty) while being in complete contrast with how it was actually done with the intent of framing him.
  • Cold Sniper: Barr and the murderer are portrayed this way.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Reacher will do anything to win a fight. In hand to hand fighting, his opponent's testicles tend to be his primary target.
  • The Conspiracy: Lebendauer Enterprises is a notably small-scale one with very limited reach and resources; a fly-by-night construction scam that happens to be led by ex-soldiers. And their goals are quite mundane; they're Only in It for the Money. As explained by Helen:
    Helen: Shell corporation in Georgia. That's the one next to Russia, not Florida. They work one city at a time, acquiring a local construction concern just ahead of major civic redevelopment. They build bridges no one needs, highways no one uses. They are like a cancer, a cell that won't stop growing. They moved 12 times in 15 years, Atlanta, Albuquerque, Austin, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, always amidst allegations of corruption, including millions of dollars in missing public funds and yet never an investigation, never even an inquiry!
  • Covered in Scars: When Reacher is introduced, several scars on his chest, back and abdomen are shown quite prominently.
  • 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 get 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.
  • Composite Character: The filmmakers combine Helen with three other book characters (to mixed reactions): Barr's sister Rosemary (who first seeks defense for him and is the one to be kidnapped), local reporter Ann Yanni and Franklin (a private investigator working for the defense), all of whom are in the loop with Reacher and contribute to his job for key areas of the book.
  • Creator Cameo: Lee Child appears as a desk sergeant in one scene.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Christopher McQuarrie loves to show his work, especially regarding firearms and their use; see The Way of the Gun for more. Also, the constant Surprisingly Realistic Outcome moments. And at this point Tom Cruise is starting to be one as well.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Reacher goes up against five guys in a bar and beats the absolute shit out of them.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The Zec. All we learn is he was a prisoner in a Siberian labour camp.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Reacher and Gunny.
  • Death by Adaptation: Emerson and the Zec are killed here while in the book they were arrested for their crimes.
  • 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.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the book, Giver Limsky, who briefly follows Reacher, is the Zec's most trusted subordinate and a fellow former Gulag inmate. Here he's just a younger, incompetent Mook quickly subjected to You Have Failed Me.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Averted. Despite the plot of the movie being largely focused on the aftermath of a mass shooting and the author of the Jack Reacher novels Lee Child admittedly being anti-gun (with his views on guns being alluded to in his works),there is surprisingly very little discussion among the characters in the film regarding gun politics in the United States. The sole exception being one scene where Jack Reacher goes to a shooting range in search for information regarding the suspect James Barr, the owner of the range Martin Cash initially didn't want to cooperate with Reacher out of fear that the other gun club members would see the disclosure of information regarding a fellow member as a violation of their constitutional rights. Beyond this scene none of the character's views on gun ownership are alluded to, besides Barr and Cash being heavily implied to be pro gun.
  • The Dragon: Charlie is the Zec's main enforcer and the sniper in the opening.
  • The Drifter: Jack even self-identifies himself as one. He is Walking the Earth, with no personal possesions or real interest with anyone or anything, but he also has almost compulsive tendency toward digging out the truth, regardless how much work and beating it will take.
  • Easy Amnesia: After Barr's head injuries put him in a coma, there is a fear that the brain damage might cause him to lose the memory of the last few days. This would result in a lengthy legal battle to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial. When Barr wakes up, he indeed has amnesia and forgets that he is innocent and that he asked for Reacher.
  • 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.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Some thugs that Reacher encounters reveal that Jeb wouldn't leave his mom behind.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Big Bad is a Serbian man only known as the Zec, Russian for "prisoner," as he spent a long time in a Russian prison. He says he forgot his real name during his time there.
  • The Evil Genius: Emmerson, the dirty cop working for the Zec.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Helen is spelling out the conspiracy when she realises she might well be about to have a Have You Told Anyone Else? moment.
  • Face Palm: Helen after she mistakes Reacher's unintended innuendo for an invitation to stay the night in his bed.
  • 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 and the sun in their eyes, 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, avoid security cameras and finger prints and guarantee a quick exit. The first target was sitting still, which would let the sniper determine windage and bullet drop, meaning the second target was the intended one. This is further hinted at by the second target being a pretty good distance from all of the others, meaning that the killer had to turn his aim a decent bit up and to the left, then back again; very inconvenient for what is supposed so be a series of random murders. 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 deliberate shot into a target which ensured that an intact 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.
  • False Confession:
    • Helen takes on Barr's case because she is convinced that her father's perfect record as a DA is built on these. She thinks that he intimidates suspects into confessing to crimes they did not commit by threatening them with the death penalty, and his record reinforces the belief that he could definitely convict them were they to go to trial.
    • James Barr makes one of those because he has amnesia and fears that he had another psychotic episode. He gets key elements of the crime wrong, which convinces the DA that the guy is innocent.
  • Famed in Story: Played with. Reacher is a ghost to most people and even the DA cannot find anything much about his civilian existence, although he does get hold of his extensive military records. However, among military snipers, Reacher was famous enough that Gunny Cash still remembers him after many years.
  • 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.
    • Before killing Charlie, Reacher breaks his fingers.
  • 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. Another clue is when Zec is shown the same file on Jack Reacher that Emerson was perusing.
  • Frame-Up: 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. After shooting Zec, Reacher drops Emerson's pistol by his hand, to make it look like the villains all shot each other.
  • Genius Bruiser: Reacher, true to form, is an exceptionally skilled detective and investigator capable of impressive feats of deductive reasoning as well as a skilled tactician in addition to being a brutal combatant who can demolish multiple opponents with no issue.
  • 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.
  • Go-to Alias: 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.
  • 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.
  • Groin Attack: Reacher does this twice during the fight with Jeb's thugs, to discourage the others.
  • Head Crushing: Jack has deduced the culprits behind a sniper serial killing, and comes to their lair to confront them. Reacher conducts a hand-to-hand duel with The Dragon Charlie, prefaced with a Badass Boast that he'll stomp on Charlie's head. Which he does. *crunch*
  • Hello, Attorney!: Helen, especially when she wears low-cut tops.
  • 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 fwip.
  • 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.
  • Honey Trap: Sandy tries to chat up Reacher in the bar, but he won't take the bait (largely because Sandy is implied to be underage). Then Sandy's 'brothers' turn up, intent on avenging the 'insult' to their sister.
  • Hostage Situation: Lampshaded by Reacher when Helen is kidnapped; "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.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Why Reacher is convinced Barr is innocent; he has the training to ensure that none of the evidence should have remained, so if he had done it, no-one would have known.
  • 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.
    • Reacher had this reputation while he was in the army and Gunny tests him by having him hit the center area of the target at long range three times in a row while using an unfamiliar rifle and only being allowed a single ranging shot. Reacher hits the target area with all three shots even though he is seriously out of practice. Gunny, a master shot himself, is seriously impressed.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: In the opening sniper scene, the gunman'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.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: The DA and Emerson are wondering how they could possibly find this Reacher guy when he's off the grid, when the secretary informs them there's a Jack Reacher wanting to see them.
  • It's All About Me: When Helen and Alex Rodin meet after Helen interviews one the father of one of the victims, Alex questions Helen why is she doing this... and phrases it as an act of rebellion against her father. Helen actually points it out in disgust.
  • 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.
  • It's What I Do: Zed's justification for his evil acts.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Reacher despises Barr because Barr got away with four murders.
    • Zec thinks he is this because none of the crimes can be connected to him. Reacher executes him to avert this.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Reacher breaks the fingers on Charlie's gun hand, leaving him in the same condition as his boss, the Zec.
  • Last-Name Basis: Reacher is referred to by this exclusively. Were it not for the title of the film and it being mentioned in the opening scenes, a casual viewer might be forgiven for not even knowing his first name.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: When Reacher confronts Charlie, he disarms him, then throws away his own gun so they can have a fistfight. Notably, this is very out of character for Reacher, who in the books tends to just shoot his enemies; as Charlie murdered an innocent girl as a Frame-Up, Reacher wants to make him hurt. He does summarily execute the Zec, however.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: The Big Bad claims to have done this years ago to escape a Siberian mob. When a Mook fails him, he offers to let him live if he chews off his fingers to prove his determination like he did. The minion can't bring himself to do it and the villain kills him.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Jack meets a woman named Sandy at a bar, but doesn't tell her his name to remain undercover. When she invites him to drive with her, he tells her "I'm sorry I can't afford you." She gets offended and defends her by saying that she isn't a hooker and that she works at the Auto Parts Store.
  • Motive Rant: A rare heroic one, on why he chooses to keep Walking the Earth;
    Jack Reacher: Look out the window. Tell me what you see. You see the same things that you see everyday. Well, imagine you've never seen it. Imagine you spent your whole life in other parts of the world, being told everyday that you're defending freedom. Then you finally decide you've had enough. Time to see what you've given up your whole life for, everything. Get some of that "freedom" for yourself. Look at the people. You tell me which ones are free. Free from debt. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. Failure. Indignity. Betrayal. How many wish that they were born knowing what they know now? Ask yourself how many would do things the same way over again, and how many would live their lives like me.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Reacher, being Tom Cruise, gets a Walking Shirtless Scene for the ladies in the audience.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The woman wearing only a thong that's in bed with Reacher in the trailer. Sandy likes a midriff-exposing outfit. While she never wears anything revealing, Helen Rodin is also pretty easy on the eyes, being played by Rosamund Pike.
  • Mugging the Monster: Five youths try to fight Reacher. He delivers a quick Curb-Stomp Battle. They were just hired thugs and he does not look like the most threating individual when taking a quiet drink. Also, he warned them several times.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution:
    • A Mook leaping to this conclusion not only costs him his 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.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Zec Chilovek, the Big Bad. Russian for "Prisoner Human Being". Hard and cold as a Siberian winter.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Reacher has a You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me! reaction when Gunny hands him a K-Bar knife instead of the Sniper Rifle he's carrying (see Surprisingly Realistic Outcome). Then during the subsequent shoot-out, he drops the knife and has to resort to using a rock.
  • 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.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Linsky, the local "franchisee" for Lebendauer Enterprises. He's the one who sets up Sandy and her "brothers" to try and beat up Reacher, because he can't directly contact Charlie and the Zek, and kills Jeb to try to tie up loose ends, only that further galvanizes Reacher that there's something else going on. Even Charlie and the Zek both lament that Linsky ended up making this situation much worse by trying to take matters into his own hands.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Helen asks Reacher if he won't settle down because he's worried he'll end up like Barr. At the end of the movie, Reacher says he actually worries that he'll end up like Gunny.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Reacher pretends a gas bill he found in Jeb's car is a warrant to search his house. When he sees a crack pipe next to the old lady on the porch, he assumes she's too zonked to notice anyway, so just walks in. Then the old lady takes a mobile phone from under her shawl and phones Jeb's friends.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Reacher gets Gunny's initial cooperation by threatening to make it public that Barr, a suspected mass killer, used Gunny's gun range to practice. The bad publicity would wreck Gunny's business.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Reacher tracks down Sandy after the bar fight:
      Sandy: Shit!
    • Helen gets this when Reacher first says the word "Patsy". She realizes that her entire approach to the case has been massively flawed.
    • 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.
    • Helen realises the grieving father she's interviewing has a cocked Colt automatic on his desk, and seems angry enough to use it on her.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: Reacher goes up against the much younger Charlie. The exact ages are never specified but Jai Courtney is twenty-four years younger than Tom Cruise.
  • 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.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: What makes the Orgy of Evidence so suspicious is that an important part of sniper training isn't just aiming and firing, but choosing where to shoot from; the optimal firing position wouldn't have left any evidence, and someone with Barr's training would know better (and did, back when Reacher caught him the first time) than to leave any.note 
  • Pants-Positive Safety: Played with in a creative way during the final showdown. Reacher's only weapon is a K-Bar combat knife in a scabbard he hadn't had the time to fasten to his belt, and when things get hectic he stuffs it into the back of his pants instead. A couple of desperate combat rolls to cover later he reaches for it, only to realize that he lost the knife almost immediately, and now it's far beyond his reach.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: After no place to run any further, Jack simply gets out of his car, leaves it rolling on the street, and stands with the crowd on the bus stop. It only works as long as the crowd willingly ignores the crazy stunt he just pulled and nobody is willing to point him out to the cops. And nobody did, so he casually rides away in the bus, right out of the massive swarm of police officers. One bystander is helpful enough to give Jack his hat to help him blend in further, however.
  • Photographic Memory: Reacher has this, which is part of the reason he's so scarily competent as an investigator.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Reacher. He's The Big Guy in the books, but Cruise is far from sizeable.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: While Reacher is washing his shirt in the sink, Helen becomes 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.
  • 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: For this film, the original title of the book isn't mentioned.
  • Pun: The Conspiracy is called Lebendauer Enterprises — German for "Lifespan" — because its founder spent most of his life in prison; QED a "Lifer".
  • 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.
    • At one point, it looks like Gunny is part of the conspiracy, and will try to shoot Reacher on the firing range. Instead, we cut to Gunny congratulating Reacher on his score, having worked out who he is.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • This is the only reason Reacher's escape from the police after the Car Chase works out. If any of the two dozen people at the bus station would've done the sensible thing and alerted the cops, the film might've taken a different turn.
    • Reacher is able to dictate the final battle on his terms because he refuses to consider Helen's life worth more than his own, thus denying Charlie any leverage beyond the knowledge that Reacher will try to rescue her.
    • 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.
  • Refuse to Rescue the Disliked: Reacher at first absolutely refuses to clear Barr's name because of the killing spree that the latter got away with in Afghanistan. It's only after the Lebandauer conspiracy tries to get Reacher out of the way that he decides to look into it.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Jack knows Barr is psychotic enough to have gone on the shooting spree, so he would have blown in and out of town without a second thought... except when he decides to kill some time in a bar while rubbing Helen's face in the murders, he's dragged into a bar fight under very suspicious circumstances; a girl approaches him and is thrown when he gives a false name, five thugs accost him supposedly to "defend the girl's honor", and cops arrive so quickly the only reason they arrive after the fight is because Jack stomped them in less than a minute. From that point on, Jack is in full investigator mode, Spotting the Thread almost immediately. The Zec actually points out what a massive screw-up it was.
  • Revealing Skill: Part of what makes Reacher suspicious is the difficulty of the shots taken in the killing spree. The killer chose an extremely poor position to shoot from, only missed once (on purpose), and only missed after successfully hitting several people. Reacher concludes that not only would Barr not do this in the first place because it runs counter to how he was trained, he's not good enough to have done it at all.
  • Reveal Shot: After a montage showing how the police track down the shooter, and Barr's interrogation, we finally get a proper look at his face...and realise he's not the same man.
  • Running Gag: Reacher helping himself to other people's cars.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Zec and his crew are very much this; what they cannot control, they kill (and what they can control, they obtained control of by making quite clear that the choice is being controlled or dying horribly).
  • Sadistic Choice: The DA offers suspects the choice of either signing a confession for a reduced sentence or going up against an undefeated DA who will seek the death penalty against them (one presumes this is limited to suspects for whom that is an available sentence). Helen believes her father has coerced false confessions through this method, if not intentionally then simply as a consequence of scaring the perp.
  • 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.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Emerson hides behind Helen, pointing a gun at her head and another at the only door that Reacher can come through. Reacher kills him with a single shot, with iron sights. Helen is so stunned she can't even move until Reacher puts his hand on her shoulder.
  • 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 badass.
  • 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 admits these exist; but they tend to be sociopaths before they enlisted. James Barr was one of these, 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 Private Military Contractors 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.
    Jack Reacher: There are four types of people who join the military. For some, it's a family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. Next you have those who just need a job. Then there's the kind who want a legal means of killing other people.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: The Zec.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Reacher compares the frustration of not being able to kill to sexual frustration. When he's saying this, a flashback shows Barr in Iraq, pushing a knife through a blanket draped over his crotch with obvious Freudian symbolism.
    You ever been hungry, been horny, you have an itch you can't scratch?
    Imagine that feeling, days, weeks, years, imagine that feeling times a thousand.
    Imagine that it's 130 degrees on the deck and tomorrow you're going home.
    And you know that if you don't scratch that itch now, you never will.
    You need a release, you need a target, and the who of it never once enters your mind.
  • 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 on a freeway that would have been ideal for a shooter with the targets coming towards him, the sun not in his eyes, no cameras and which would have prevented empty shells from being left behind as evidence and allowed him to make an easy getaway. He also discovers that not only was Barr deemed merely a 'decent' sniper while in the Army and wasn't good enough to shoot so accurately from a non-ideal location, but that he was trained well enough not to use said location when there was a better one available.
    • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Repeatedly, to the point of bordering on Deconstruction of action flicks.
    • Improbable Aiming Skills are just that — improbable. All of the amazing complications super-snipers overcome — sun in a bad position, windage, erratically moving targets, extreme range — are things real snipers are actually trained to avoid so as to make easier shots and Barr wasn't skilled enough to have killed five people in such conditions but he was smart and trained enough to know to choose locations to avoid such issues, choosing a parking garage over a nearby freeway which would've not only kept the sun from his eyes and made the targets easier to hit but would've also avoided cameras, not left behind any evidence and had an easy getaway. Reacher thus notices the killings are a Revealing Cover-Up.
    • Real Bar Brawls 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 - which is demonstrated when 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.
    • Most criminals are only threatening because most people are unused to conflict, which is why most police work is a simple desk job. Lebendauer Enterprises is only as dangerous as it is because it is led and staffed by actual soldiers — which aren't all that common in criminal enterprises.
    • 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 guy capable of realistically surviving an action movie is not charismatic, he is fucking terrifying.
    • Driving backwards in a car, despite it having a rear parking camera (which gets shot out), is a bad plan of attack. Especially if you run over something that leaves your car immobile, like a rock. To quote Reacher:
      Jack Reacher: This is a bad idea.
    • Actual fights are far less flashy and impressive than in films with all of Reacher's battles consisting mainly of straightforward moves and his opponents realistically reacting in pain or getting winded from exhaustion.
  • Take a Third Option: When given the Sadistic Choice by the DA, Barr simply writes "Find Jack Reacher" instead, knowing Reacher will figure out what's really going on.
  • Television Geography: At the beginning of the Chase Scene, after Jack begins chasing Charlie from the motel, Emerson radios in that the police are pursuing Jack along Pennsylvania State Route 65, AKA Ohio River Boulevard.note  The next part of the chase involves Jack chasing Charlie's truck across the Monongahela River via 10th Street Bridge and proceeding through the Armstrong Tunnel from Southside to Uptown. While not impossible, these two roads are located on the northwestern and southern parts of Pittsburgh, respectively, and on opposite sides of Downtown, meaning that the chase scene would have had to have crossed at least one bridge just to get to a point where it could go over another bridge.
  • Spree Killer: James Barr already had a spree shooting in his personal history (investigated by Reacher and tossed under the rug because, unknown to him, he killed a bunch of rapists) and is framed as the man responsible for the massacre we see in the prologue because of this by the real party, the Zec's organization, who was aiming for Serial Killings, Specific Target.
  • Taking the Fight Outside: "Hey, outside," barks Jeb to Jack Reacher after Jack blew off Sandy. She responds by rallying her regulars into a band of five mooks to issue Jack a comeuppance. As a courtesy, Jack gives the thugs a chance to stand down, since they're about to engage a retired U.S. Army military policeman. Bullying a Dragon proves a big mistake, so the floozy flees.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Reacher drives Helen's car in reverse towards the villain's hideout while henchmen open fire on him. All he has to say is "This was a bad idea."
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Helen and Reacher, but it remains unresolved.
  • Varying Competency Alibi: James Barr, a former Army sniper, is accused of the sniper murders, but Jack doesn't believe it. The shots were from a rather awkward position when a better one was available, and the only miss conveniently preserved the bullet. This suggests that Barr simply isn't a good enough marksman to have pulled off the killings: they had to have been performed by one of the finest shooters in the world, and Barr was merely decent. It turns out that not only was James Barr framed, but the shooter choose the position not to kill random people but a specific person to hide among a random spree.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The movie begins with Charlie sniping at five innocent bystanders from a parking garage.
  • Weak, but Skilled: This version of Reacher lacks his counterpart's extreme strength, though he compensates by being well-versed in martial arts, which comes in sharp contrast with Book!Reacher's fighting style.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Zec is willing to spare his minion's life if he proves his commitment by biting off the fingers on his left hand, but he can't do it and is shot dead by Charlie.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Reacher attacks a prefab hut in the quarry and takes out the guards, only to find out Helen is being kept in another hut.