‘Jack Reacher’ a solid, if predictable, action thriller
Asking who Jack Reacher is really isn’t the point. (Even if you have no idea who he is, at which point it may be a legitimate question.) Because the answer is more metaphysical than what this type of movie would lead you to believe. Or maybe not.
And there’s the rub with “Jack Reacher” and the anti-hero for which the movie is named: The illusion it’s trying to create — a solitary, off-the-grid man with no credit card trace and just the clothes on his back — is one we’ve seen before. You know the type: the hard-bodied vigilante who dispenses righteous (and often violent) justice to those who break the law and get away with it, entering and leaving towns as quickly as he pulls the trigger.
And that’s not to say there isn’t a place for these Clint Eastwood-wannabes. It’s just to say this Man With No Name facade simply doesn’t carry the same weight. Even if the one carrying that weight happens to be Tom Cruise. (There was a bit of anger exhibited when Cruise was announced to play the ex-military cop: Reacher is supposed to be a strapping, 6’5” blond, while Cruise is none of those things.)
“Jack Reacher,” directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and adapted for the screen from “One Shot,” the ninth book in Lee Child’s best-selling series, drops us off in Pittsburgh, where five innocent people have just been shot down by a sniper. The main suspect, James Barr (Joseph Sikora), lies in a coma after penning “Get Jack Reacher” while being pressured to confess to the crime. With the case seemingly a slam dunk — fingerprints, security footage and shell casings all point to Barr as the shooter — it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But that doesn’t dissuade Barr’s lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), from hiring Reacher to help keep Barr off death row. (Oh, and there’s the underlying — and then not-so-underlying — attraction to the man she just met. It must be that animal magnetism.) It should be mentioned that Helen is daughter to the district attorney prosecuting the accused shooter. (What a coincidence…)
Aiding the DA is the lead detective on the case (David Oyelowo), who, along with the DA, seems entirely too suspect. But then again, so does everyone with whom Reacher interacts. And then there’s the Zec (Werner Herzog), who makes its entirely clear Barr is a pasty for a much bigger goal. Of which Reacher will do his violent best to stop, including beating up five guys at once, fighting hand-to-hand with the real shooter despite having the drop (and a gun) on him and somehow managing to see all the clues no one else sees.
Yes, “Reacher” is a predictably fun adventure, and Cruise handles the cocky machismo well. (And Robert Duvall deserves a shout out as a cantankerous former Marine called in near the movie’s end.) But “Reacher” is, at its core, ridiculous. From the premise to the fights to the conclusion, it resembles a bad Bond movie (evil Russian counterpart included).
And don’t be surprised if you feel pity for actress Pike, who does her best to portray a character whose strange dichotomy leaves you wondering how she became a lawyer in the first place. And there’s even the shirtless Cruise scene. (Got to give the man props, though: He’s in great physical shape for being 50.) Not to mention the incessant one-liners and stilted repartee that tries to be witty. (It isn’t.)
After “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” you’d expect more from Cruise. But try as it might, this isn’t summer anymore. And “Reacher” just isn’t as cool.
Two vigilante stars out of five.