Jack Reacher: Cruise Doing What He Does Best

Say what you will about Cruise’s personal life, but when he’s placed in the right vehicle, he works wonders on the big screen. Jack Reacher is absolutely the right type of vehicle, his best non-sequel in nearly a decade. While admittedly it’s a bit slapdash tonally, and the narrative is not unfamiliar, it delivers its genre pleasures at a better success rate than most films this year, honestly. Christopher McQuarrie has delivered a script full of sharp one-liners, and between scenes of witty self-aware action and scenes of legitimate suspense, Jack Reacher is the type of thriller Hollywood doesn’t seem to make anymore. It’s a mid-budget star-driven action-comedy. While early buzz doesn’t seem to indicate that this will spin off into a successful film franchise, I’m hoping Cruise and McQuarrie do a series of films together. Cruise has the charm to pull off McQuarrie’s humor and the action cred to make his hard-boiled nature work. Jack Reacher doesn’t stretch past Cruise’s reach: it’s directly in his wheelhouse, and it’s wicked fun.

After a sniper (Jai Courtney) shoots five random people in Pittsburgh, an abundance of evidence points to a man named James Barr having committed the crime. When grilled by a detective (David Oyelowo) and the district attorney (Richard Jenkins), he merely writes three words on a piece of paper: “GET JACK REACHER.” Jack Reacher (Cruise), a former military investigator, arrives with some information for Barr’s lawyer (Rosamund Pike): Barr is a killer, he’s killed before, and he’s killed again. However, when Reacher determines he’s being followed, and he senses something fishy about the evidence, he sticks around to get to the truth. Along the way, he does plenty of smart-talking and ass-kicking. While in the shadows, a mysterious figure called the Zec (Werner Herzog) lurks, orchestrating nefarious deeds…

If you wanted to pick apart the plot, you could. If you wanted to accuse Reacher of being too brilliant, too badass, and too beyond believability… sure, you could be that wet blanket to throw yourself upon the untouchable hero archetype that has been proudly trotted out time and time again. The thing is, despite Cruise’s diminutive size and pretty face, he is a credible agent of destruction. He breaks arms, pokes eyes, and kicks balls with a total absence of mercy. When he asks someone if they want to see him again, and they shake their heads “no” in fear, we understand. Werner Herzog is somewhat under-utilized, but the mere inclusion of his character in the film adds so much– same with Robert Duvall, showing up as an ex-Marine helping Jack Reacher uncover secrets late in the game. Other character actors do fine work, with special mention to the costume and makeup designer who decided that Pike should be almost distractingly gorgeous throughout the second half of the film. I would be taken aback by the film’s iffy moral compass if I wasn’t too busy being entertained. McQuarrie keeps the one-liners coming, the fight sequences and car chases well-staged, and the pace quick. It’s the type of film I’ll watch endlessly on Blu-Ray on rainy summer days.

~ by russellhainline on December 23, 2012.

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