REVIEW: Jack Reacher
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, December 21, 2012
A sniper sets up in a downtown Pittsburgh parking garage, from where he shoots and kills five people, showing incredible accuracy.
The crime scene is a gold mine of shell casings and fingerprints. A suspect is in custody within hours. Case closed.
Not so fast — the suspect has requested the presence of Jack Reacher, a former military cop. For reasons we don’t understand immediately, we find that Reacher is the last person this suspect would want to see — but the suspect knows that Reacher is the only person with the investigatory skills to prove his innocence in this case.
Based on novelist Lee Child’s winning series of books (this one is “One Shot”), Tom Cruise plays Reacher with the actor’s usual smirking gusto while incorporating bits and pieces of past movie cops to embody the mysterious would-be investigator.
Reacher is a drifter, or a “ghost,” as the authorities refer to the man who has a name, but apparently little else.
He has no identification (he “borrows” bad guys’ vehicles, usually super-cool muscle cars, when he’s not riding the bus). He always pays in cash and he’s mindful of his budget (no time for women). He moves around a lot.
He’s an odd duck in the pantheon of such characters, and I wish that writer-director Christopher McQuarrie took the time to tell us more about how Reacher’s past informed the character that he has become.
But at least McQuarrie (the Oscar-winning writer of “The Usual Suspects”) knows how to create a noirish mystery and give his criminals as well as their pursuers a touch of personality, humor and true menace.
As Reacher takes on the role of defense investigator in partnering with the suspect’s attorney (Rosamund Pike), Cruise infuses the no-nonsense tough-guy with a vigilante sense of justice that “Dirty Harry” Callahan would appreciate, as well as a flair for the dramatic that Martin Riggs of “Lethal Weapon” would applaud.
Cruise’s “the law has limits, but I don’t” tough guy enters every scenario with an “I’m the smartest guy in the room” belief and the brawn to back up what he says, as Reacher always seems to find trouble.
McQuarrie knows how to showcase his star’s skills while adding color to crooks both dumb (like two schlubs who Reacher dispatches by head-butting them into submission) and smart (Jai Courtney as the real killer has a cool, authoritative confidence that should carry over to his upcoming role as John McClane’s son in February’s new “Die Hard” movie).
These qualities are valuable because Pike, Richard Jenkins (as the district attorney) and David Oyelowo (as the police investigator) are some of the most cliched characters imaginable. Each of these performers is too talented to be stuck in roles that generally leave them asking “What is Reacher up to now?” questions.
Cruise’s star-power and McQuarrie’s sense of style have to carry “Jack Reacher” because the mystery isn’t one at all; we know the suspect is a patsy from the beginning of the movie, but Reacher and the rest don’t reach this conclusion until halfway through the movie.
I don’t know if the filmmaker thought he was building suspense worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, but it only produced an anti-climax before a second act that offered a couple of surprises, more beatdowns and some Robert Duvall comic relief.
What’s amusing is the level of concern that fans of Child’s novel had with the casting of the diminutive Cruise to play Reacher, described in the books as a 6-foot, 5-inch side of beef.
What any actor playing Reacher would have to possess is screen presence — a quality of which Cruise has always had more than enough to burn.
His “Jack Reacher” looks plenty intimidating up on that big screen.
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Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall
Theaters: AMC Southroads 20, Cinemark Tulsa, Cinemark Broken Arrow, RiverWalk, Owasso, Starworld 20, Eton Square, Sand Springs, Moviestar Cinema
Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
This publicity film image released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise in a scene from "Jack Reacher." AP File Photo/Paramount Pictures