The Buzz: Jack Reacher and Tom Cruise Never Dies

Welcome to this week's The Buzz. Tom Cruise has been a star for more than 30 years. But, it has only been recently that he has become a bonafide action star. We look at how he has sustained this career path this late into his career and how he has become an ageless star for the ages. 

Then we look at our last horror film to stream for our Halloween movie countdown. Then we look at the most talked about superhero trailer in the last week as well as possible trouble with a much anticipated superhero sequel.

Film: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back: At the age of 54, Tom Cruise has the face of a 30-year-old, the energy and movement of a 27-year-old and the romantic interests of women 20 years younger than him. But for Tom Cruise, action movie stat, age has never been a factor for him. That has never been more evident than the last ten years of his career.

At a certain point in an actor’s career, he accepts that he has aged. This becomes a turning point in their persona. The great stars from John Wayne to Arnold Schwarzenegger had at one point accepted this fate. Rather than taking the route of becoming the elder statesman of film, Cruise has pivoted to becoming an action hero that he was never really when he was in the first quarter of his career. Sure, there was the first Mission Impossible and Top Gun, but in the last ten years, no actor has been as focused as he has been in creating a singular niche for himself as Cruise has. He has shed the matinee idol of Risky Business and Cocktail and in its place, is an unlikely action hero.

For other late in life action stars like Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson, age always seems to be a factor in the character. They are world weary, marked by experience above all else. This does not seem to be the case for Cruise. At this point, age has been excised from his persona. You would think the reason why the mission is impossible for Ethan Hunt is because he has been doing this since 1995. Even Michael Jordan eventually aged out of basketball. In fact, Danny Glover was 15 years younger than Cruise currently when he was exasperatedly saying, “I’m too old for this shit,” in the first Lethal Weapon.

That just speaks to the magnetic stardom of Tom Cruise, one of the last true movie stars whose name can drive crowds to a film. His onscreen persona is ageless, which is both a testament to Cruise and the manic team constantly tinkering with his image. While writing this, I struggle to think of a young star who could fill the void that Tom Cruise would create if he no longer existed. Chris Pratt cannot carry a movie on his own. In fact, he has been most successful in a team whether it is a group of Guardians or six other Magnificent cowboys. The Chris Pine experiment invariably failed as they tried to tack the Jack Ryan franchise onto his shoulders, a role which Tom Cruise would have killed. Now Pine has been regulated to Star Trek sequels and his true love of being a weird character actor. Tom Cruise is now in a league of his own.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, however, seems to be the first time in a long time that Tom Cruise is faced with his own aging mortality. Yet, in the most Tom Cruise way possible, it is never explicit. The fun of the first film, based on the popular series by Lee Child about a ronin-type figure solving crimes from town to town, was the bare-knuckle brawling of the character. It was a welcomed reprieve from the high-octane action of Mission Impossible and superhero blockbusters. Tom Cruise also gets to be a badass, a role that he doesn’t often play nor is he entirely successful.

This film, directed by Edward Zwick, who previously worked with Cruise on The Last Samurai, makes sure to linger every time Reacher winces in pain. Cruise has hung off buildings, airplanes and battled for the heart of Japan. He does not often wince in pain. This does not stop him from taking out eight other men all by himself in an abandoned warehouse. This is Tom Cruise.

At one point, Cruise even takes off his shirt, as a way to tell all of us in the audience that Tom Cruise is indeed fit. This is the first time I can remember Tom Cruise being a topless in a film. But, what is extraordinary about Cruise being shirtless is that while his face has remained that of a young man, his body is a reminder of how age is unbeatable. He is as fit as a 54-year-old can be, but it is the first time I thought about Tom Cruise as being old. His body is weary from the years of being young.

This is not a major plot point in the film. Remember Jack Reacher, and even more prescient, Tom Cruise cannot be killed. In the place of mortality, the film creates an illegitimate daughter for the character to care about. If the hero cannot be killed, then there are no stakes. Thus, here is an ill-advised forced plot move that creates awkward sitcom moments between the stoic Reacher and a teenager. Cruise has not been a father on film that I can remember since War of the Worlds. It’s hard for him to be an everyman.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is not very good. But, for now Tom Cruise continues to be his consistent self. He has become a safety net for all of us. As we get older, wiser and closer to our own mortality, Tom Cruise will continue to be the same, ageless star. That is until time finally catches up.

Rewind: V/H/S 2: For those with short attention spans, I recommend V/H/S 2. No, you do not need to watch the first film in order to follow in the V/H/S canon. But, the horror film and anthologies goes hand and hand like cereal with the bloodiest of milk. This anthology consists of three short films from three different directors, all bookended by a fourth framing narrative. Each film does something different enough that it warrants being there, from a traditional jump scare narrative, to a cult film to a comedic zombie film from a new point of view. Each one of these are shot in the found footage style but never follows exactly the same pattern. The films are directed by notable filmmakers such as Gareth Evans, of The Raid fame, whose entry is my favorite short film in a long time. In addition, there are also entries from Adam Wingard (Blair Witch and You’re Next) and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project). Watch all the shorts in one night or break it up in between your horror movie marathon.

V/H/S 2 is available to stream on Netflix.

Coming Soon: Logan: I think I am one of the few people who are mixed about the new trailer to Logan, the last of the Hugh Jackman Wolverine movies, or so he says. This film is James Mangold’s follow up to The Wolverine, this time taking another popular Wolverine comic storyline, Old Man Logan. Here are the pros. The film feels and looks like a straight western. Mangold with films like Cop Land and 3:10 to Yuma is great at creating a revisionist type western. Combine that with a superhero film that seems less about saving the world and more like a man finding himself seems like a great combination. I am all about a superhero version of The Searchers. Also, there has been no better synthesis of superhero and actor than Hugh Jackman and Wolverine. When the character inevitably gets rebooted, I don’t know who could possibly fill the claws. But, there are some cons. What can be a more eye-rolling, emotionally manipulative track than Hurt by Johnny Cash. Here is a film that looks like a self-meditative Western and you go for the most obvious track in the songbook. Next thing you want to do is to use Gary Jules’ Mad World for an emo-teen or The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil to introduce a badass through a long tracking shot. People have been making a big deal that this is R-rated but that does not mean much to me as long as they use violence or language as a way to give gravitas to the overall story. From the trailer I do not know how that would result. Hopefully it will be good.

Logan is scheduled to be released on March 3, 2017.

In the Loop: There has been a lot of controversy over the pre-production of Deadpool 2, the sequel to the surprise hit of the year, released earlier this year. This comes after director, Tim Miller, was announced to be leaving the project late last week. Sources say that this departure comes after a creative rift between Miller and Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds and the screenwriters, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, envisioned a cheap sequel that continues to be raunchy much in the same way as the first. If it ain’t broke, then do not fix it. Miller, on the other hand, comes from a CGI background, wanted to expand the scope of the action that would cause the budget to expand three times from the original $58 million budget. Warner Brothers picked the star over the director. Since Miller’s departure, fans have been actively petitioning to hire Quentin Tarantino to take over the reins as director. That seems unlikely.