I have enjoyed all four “Mission: Impossibles,” “Minority Report” and parts of “Knight and Day,” but I was really surprised how much fun I had watching Cruise’s newest action thriller, “Jack Reacher.” This one is based on a character in a series of novels by author Lee Child, who envisioned homicide investigator Reacher as “6-foot-5 and 210 lbs.” It doesn’t take a genius to notice Cruise is nowhere near 6-foot-5 nor 210 lbs.
My guess is most moviegoers will approach “Jack Reacher” not knowing anything about the novels, which is fine because it’s easy to enjoy the movie on its own. Cruise is in his element as Reacher, a stoic individual who uses brutally unconventional methods to solve crimes. In this particular outing, he is investigating the murders of five random strangers who may or may not have been murdered by a former military sharpshooter who seems to have ties to the title character.
The movie kicks off with a brilliantly wordless opening sequence in which we see the murders take place. “Jack Reacher” is uncommonly violent — maybe even too violent for a PG-13 film — and people who may be having a tough time with last week’s tragic shootings in Connecticut may want to give the film a pass. But, from a filmmaking standpoint, director Christopher McQuarrie — who hasn’t directed a movie since 2000’s “The Way of the Gun” — knows how to frame a shot. There are three terrific, wordless action set pieces in “Reacher,” in fact, and every one of them is great.
What’s not so great is “Reacher’s” somewhat overcooked story line. The first half of the film is divvied between introducing Reacher to the world — a vicious mix of furrowed brow, quick wit and unlikely fits of brutality — and a slightly more common police procedural. Rosamund Pike plays the sharpshooter’s defense attorney in these scenes, and it’s the kind of defense attorney you only find in the movies: one who’s life is constantly on the line because they usually do as much investigating as they do filling out tedious paperwork. But the second half of the movie takes a few unlikely — and unwarranted — turns that threaten to derail all of “Jack Reacher” if not handled properly.
Luckily, McQuarrie has a much better grasp on his film than, say, Rob Cohen did with the similar-but-worse “Alex Cross” last October. That movie bombed hard enough that we certainly won’t see an “Alex Cross 2.” “Jack Reacher” seems to end with the promise of more “Jack” to come, and to that I say, bring it on!
★★★ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13 for tons of brutal violence, some language and a butt in a thong. 130 minutes.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie. Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike.
To read fellow Film Geek Central critic Austin Kennedy had to say about “Jack Reacher,” click here.