Lee Child‘s vigilante hero Jack Reacher stands a rugged 6′ 5″ on the page, so the decision to cast relative pipsqueak Tom Cruise in the role has left many fans of the books frothing with incredulity and fury.
Yet Cruise’s air of cocky invincibility actually proves a good fit for a character who sets female hearts aflutter the moment he walks into a room and barely breaks into a sweat when taking on five thugs in a fist fight. (Yes, he’s a blatant fantasy figure.)
A brilliant military cop turned wrong-righting drifter, Reacher turns up out of nowhere in his first screen adventure (based on the book One Shot, ninth in Child’s bestselling series) after an unseen lone gunman claims five victims in a Pittsburgh park. With all the evidence pointing one way, the local DA (Richard Jenkins) and homicide detective (David Oyelowo) reckon they have ex-army sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora) bang to rights for the crime, but for Reacher the copious clues are just too good to be true.
“Pulpy B-movie stuff”
Cruise swaggers through the ensuing investigation, stripping bare a deadly conspiracy and whipping off his shirt at every opportunity. It’s pulpy B-movie stuff, but writer-director Christopher McQuarrie handles the fights and car chases efficiently enough, while cinematographer Caleb Deschanel gives the action a glossy sheen.
The cast also provide more class than the material deserves, with Robert Duvall popping up as the doughty owner of a shooting range and Werner Herzog supplying menace as milky-eyed villain the Zec, a Russian ex-con so tough he chewed off his own fingers to survive a Siberian prison.
Rosamund Pike, again miscast by Hollywood (see Wrath of the Titans), fares less well as the DA’s crusading lawyer daughter, an underwritten role that mostly requires her to goggle at Reacher’s deductive genius and swoon at his pecs. Fans of the books may prove harder to win over, but even if Jack Reacher doesn’t make nonpartisan viewers go weak at the knees, it still delivers straightforward genre thrills.