East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Other Peoples’ Pulps: Jack Reacher

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70243455I saw Jack Reacher, last night.
No, not the guy – the 2012 movie featuring Tom Cruise, and based on the work of British author Lee Child, and on the novel One Shot in particular.

I was not overwhelmed – it’s a good movie, a nice way to spend two hours while sitting by the electric fan.
The temperature outside is well over 36° C, and a fan, a bowl of ice cream and a good movie are all that I can take. Reading is impossible, as the light attracts hordes of mosquitoes1.

So, as I was saying, I liked the movie, but had some real problems with the star – Tom Cruise can do action all right, but basically he is not the 6-foot 5-inches guy Lee Child writes about.
Which is a pity.

Nothingtolose_leechildI discovered Jack Reacher when I was a PhD student in Urbino.
Forced to take 20 hour train trips for every two hours in the classroom, twice a month, it was soon evident that I needed a lot of reading matter to pass the hours away.
There was this Lee Child novel, on sale at a station’s newsagent, and I thought, why not?
Action thriller, nice and smooth.
I liked it.

Later I read some interviews to the author, and I liked the idea of this former TV exec starting to write to pay the rent after being laid off.
I like Lee Child’s approach to his writing, as a honest job, in the business of entertainment. I like that.
And I like the fact that Child is a Brit writing stories set in the USA – because here abouts the write what you know bit has been taken a little to seriously by some, and Lee Child’s a great witness for the defense on the subject.
And I like the basic concept of the Jack reacher novels – a lone drifter coming to town, finding things ain’t quite right, and setting them straight before he’s on his way again.
It’s a very basic premise, a formula that works everywhere – nameless pistoleros, wandering samurai, knights errant… perfect for any place and time
2b01a2d472a83bfdd9dbf1393687405aSkilled, taciturn, with an eye for the ladies.
This is pulp fiction all right – and the books are good yarns to be read on a speeding train, or in a lonely and cold university dorm.

And yet, the movie misses something.
I blame Cruise, but who knows. With its plot filled with conspiracies, brave attorneys and corruption, with its canonical car chase and foreign bad guy, it feels too much like a rehash of some standard plot that’s been doing the rounds for decades.
There’s something more in Lee Child’s books – I’d call it class.

But it’s not a bad movie.
Only, it’s not Jack Reacher.

  1. just invested six bucks in one of those electrical zapper lamps… I have high hopes… 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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