In an efficient, and in places, stylish, action thriller, the physically massive protagonist of Lee Child’s novels is replaced by the diminutive and svelt Tom Cruise. Between Knight and Day and various Missions Improbable, Cruise manages to bland-down the titular hero to a point somewhere between Minority Report and TV’s The Equaliser.
Starting with a coldly executed sniper attack killing five random victims, a patsy is provided to the police in the shape of Iraq veteran James Barr. Calling in the one man he believes can prove his innocence, ex-military investigator Jack Reacher (Cruise) quickly establishes Barr is being framed and therefore the victims are far from random.
Swiftly pursued by both the police, led by Brit David Oyowelo, and a shadowy organisation of heavies and hitmen led by the sinister Zec (a superb cameo by acclaimed director Werner Herzog) with principle henchman Charlie (Jai Courtney, Divergent), Reacher goes on a one-man mission to save the innocent.
Which happens to include the excellent Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) as Barr’s attorney, uncovering the conspiracy behind the shootings – for which she is soon abducted. Thus, the female lead needs rescuing by a man’s man, as usual, and spends most of the movie belittled by men (including Reacher) or tied to a chair. Don’t you love the enlightened post-feminist world of Hollywood? Pike tries her best, but her performance is edited down to blank looks and wide-eyed fear.
Add a cameo from another acting legend, Robert Duvall (Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, The Road) as marine turned gunshop owner, and the whole thing begins to squeak as all this talent tries to inflate the material to something better than it is – another middle-aged guy beating and shooting the bad guys (Neeson, Costner, Washington, et al.).
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack the Giant Slayer, The Usual Suspects), Jack Reacher is just above the average crime thriller, with action sequences a little different from the usual knockabout, chop-sockey, shoot-em up – until the finale, that is, where it goes all too predictably into Taken Territory, with a little Dirty Harry thrown in for good measure.
Sandwiched between Bourne on one side, Taken on the other and with Denzel’s Equaliser looking over its shoulder, Jack Reacher drops the muscular Hemingway hard-boiled style of Childs in favour of an identi-kit Cruise thriller, albeit less flashy and with fewer Top Gun grins.
Expect Jack Reacher to take over from Mission Improbable as the next Cruise franchise. RC
Jack Reacher (2012)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie
Genre: Thriller, action
Running time: 2 hr. 10 min.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamnund Pike, David Oyowelo, Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Alexia Fast
Related: Black Hat (2015)