Review

Well-crafted 'Jack Reacher' showcases Tom Cruise's star power

Associated PressDecember 20, 2012 

Film-Fall Preview

This film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise in a scene from "Jack Reacher." Cruise plays a former military cop investigating a sniper case.

KAREN BALLARD/PARAMOUNT PICTURES — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Jack Reacher B Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike and Werner Herzog Director: Christopher McQuarrie Website: www.jackreachermovie.com Length: 2 hours, 10 minutes Rating: PG-13 (violence, language and some drug material)

The idea of watching a movie in which a sniper methodically crafts his own bullets, practices weekly at a gun range, then waits quietly in an empty parking garage before shooting five people dead may not sound like the most appealing form of entertainment during these tragic days.

Nevertheless, it’s important to assess “Jack Reacher” on its own terms, for what it is and isn’t. Besides being caught in some unfortunate timing, it’s also clever, well-crafted and darkly humorous, and it features one of those effortless bad-ass performances from Cruise that remind us he is indeed a movie star, first and foremost.

OK, so maybe Cruise doesn’t exactly resemble the Reacher of British novelist Lee Child’s books: a 6-foot-5, 250-pound, blond behemoth. If you haven’t read them, you probably won’t care.

Even if you have read them, Christopher McQuarrie’s film – the first he’s directed and written since 2000’s “The Way of the Gun” – moves so fluidly it’ll suck you in from the start.

McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning writer of “The Usual Suspects,” exhibits some Hitchcockian aspirations in “Jack Reacher” with its sense of foreboding from the very beginning, its twists and double crosses and the quintessential icy blonde at the center in British beauty Rosamund Pike. Hinting at a romance between the two main characters is among the film’s few mistakes.

As Pee-wee Herman says in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” to the woman who has a crush on him: “You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”

Taken from the Child novel “One Shot,” Jack Reacher is all that: a former military investigator who’s become a bit of a mythic figure since he’s gone off the grid. No address, no credit card trail. This is a guy who uses pay phones – that’s how stealthy he is.

When the deadly shooting occurs at the film’s start, along the Riverwalk outside PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates play, authorities believe they’ve found their man: a sniper named Barr who’s ex-Army himself. He reveals nothing during his interrogation but manages to scribble the words “Get Jack Reacher” on a notepad before winding up in a coma.

Reacher is hard to reach, if you’ll pardon the pun, but he knows to show up anyway when he hears about the crime just ’cause he’s one of those stay-one-step-ahead kind of guys. He agrees to team up with Barr’s defense attorney, Helen Rodin (Pike), in hopes of burying the guy. But the deeper he digs, the more he realizes this case isn’t as simple as he, the lead detective (David Oyelowo) or the district attorney (Richard Jenkins) – who happens to be Helen’s semi-estranged dad – had hoped.

Besides being a mind teaser, “Jack Reacher” offers the muscular thrills of a ’70s action flick.

Cruise dials down the megawatt charisma and instead relies on a no-nonsense world-weariness that has its own appeal.

Disappointingly, though, Werner Herzog is a bit of a stereotypical villain as a mastermind named The Zec; he’s never really fleshed out enough to seem truly frightening, but at least he sounds right for the part.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service