I looked forward to seeing “Jack Reacher, a film released in 2012, because the producers filmed it in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since Pittsburgh is my home town, I hoped to see a good combination of exterior shots that utilizes the topography without sacrificing the grittiness of Pittsburgh’s industrial heart. I found it to be an interesting experiment, particularly since the movie begins with overhead shots of the city’s bridges and the iconic and much-shown view of downtown as it appears from a car driving out of the Liberty Tubes (a tunnel linking the South Hills of Pittsburgh to downtown). After showing various vistas, the camera focuses on a sniper setting his sights on a promenade along the Allegheny river. The camera pans and whips as the sniper shoots 5 people. Next, a montage shows a suspect quickly being captured.
The movie stars Tom Cruise as Reacher, an investigator who plays by his own rules. As far as rogue investigators go, Cruise’s performance comes off as more like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” than Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry.” But the story contains elements prevalent in one or both films — really bad and seemingly invincible bad guys, and possible police involvement in the crime. Jack Reacher’s plot concerns the possibility that the district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) could be directing the bad guys to commit more crimes. Since the suspected sniper gets beaten into a coma shortly after his arrest, we don’t get any answers from him.
The plot involves graft in the construction business; a diabolical international gang leader, The Zec, played by Werner Herzog, constructs never completed buildings and builds bridges that go nowhere. Ironically, Pittsburgh’s very own “Bridge to Nowhere,” the Fort Duquesne Bridge across the Allegheny River, stood uncompleted for six years because of legal confusion over rights of way during the 1960’s. The Zec and his henchmen quickly eliminate any of their men who fail even slightly, but he incomprehensibly doesn’t the take threat of Reacher seriously. Reacher cannot be stopped, so The Zec and top henchman Charlie (Jai Courtney) step on anyone else associated with Reacher.
Reacher works with committed defense attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike), the daughter of the district attorney who suspects her father’s involvement in the killings. She investigates the clues and Reacher slowly comes up with the crime theories and the motives. I expected Helen to exhibit some physical heroism, but Reacher gets his help from a crusty gun range owner named Cash (Robert Duvall). Cash delivers several quips during the climactic scene to lighten the generally edgy mood of the film. Since I don’t take the Reacher character seriously, Cash’s quips don’t detract much from the story.
Anybody who knows Pittsburgh is well aware of its transportation problems. With all the hills, rivers, bridges and lack of a right-angle street grid system, it becomes very difficult to get around town. If a driver makes a wrong turn on a hill, he can’t simply just turn right at the next block and double back. A bad turn could doom the driver to a detour several miles along a limited access road. Jack Reacher includes a car chase that seems to defy the logic of Pittsburgh’s topography, and Reacher also seems to get everywhere in and around in Pittsburgh in a short time. That doesn’t seem realistic to me.