Tom Cruise is 5'6". Jack Reacher is 6'5". Does Cruise pull it off? Our critic isn't quite so sure.
Critic's Grade: B-
In the opening of this impeccably timed Tom Cruise vehicle, a sniper in Pittsburgh guns down five apparently random people, including a woman babysitting a young girl. Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) finds a wealth of evidence at the crime scene to convict a former soldier, James Barr (Joseph Sikora). But instead of pleading guilty, Barr scrawls a cryptic note: “Get Jack Reacher.”
Who is this Jack Reacher? Emerson and the district attorney collect the facts:
Reacher (Cruise) is a military cop-turned-drifter. He is a ghost with no permanent address and no steady employment, who performs all business transactions in cash. The character created by author Lee Childs was born out of pulp. Reacher is intimidating, 6’5” and blond, preternaturally gifted in investigation, krav maga, marksmanship and general ass-kicking. At some point in the casting process, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie must have said, “Fuck it, let’s just get Tom Cruise.”
As if on cue, Reacher shows up in the Steel City to kill Barr without due process. As the movie poster tells us: “The law has limits. He does not.” But he instead finds himself appointed the lead investigator by Barr’s defense attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike). Reacher proceeds to do police work better than anyone, due to his military background, keen memory and impossibly good intuition. Meanwhile, Pike is reduced to little more than looking sexy and growing aroused as Reacher unravels the mysteries of the case. As Reacher gets closer and closer to the truth, a shadowy group of Russians have him followed by Michael Raymond-James, reprising his Terriers role as a professional stalker.
Jack Reacher has some serious moments, including some gruesome hand-to-hand combat, but it has a sense of humor about itself. This is a movie with a high-speed car chase between cop cars and modern sedans in which Cruise inexplicably drives a ‘70s muscle car. The brutal Russian mob is kept in line by the iron fist of an aging former Siberian prisoner (Werner Herzog) with a pronounced German accent and gnawed-off fingers. There are two ways to approach this film: either as a ludicrous vanity picture for an over-the-hill movie star with a serious Napoleon complex or a work of high camp. You may expect the former, but be prepared to cackle at the latter.