In the opening of this impeccably timed Tom Cruise vehicle, a sniper in Pittsburgh guns down five apparently random people. Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) finds a wealth of evidence to convict a former soldier, James Barr (Joseph Sikora). But instead of pleading guilty, Barr scrawls a cryptic note: “Get Jack Reacher.” Reacher (Cruise) is a military cop-turned-drifter. The character, created by author Lee Childs, was born out of pulp: intimidating, 6-foot-5 and blond, and preternaturally gifted in investigation, krav maga, marksmanship and general ass-kicking. But at some point in the casting process, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie must have said, “Fuck it, let’s just get Tom Cruise.” When Reacher shows up in the Steel City, he finds himself appointed the lead investigator by Barr’s defense attorney (Rosamund Pike, reduced to little more than looking sexy and growing aroused as Reacher unravels the mysteries of the case). Jack Reacher
has some serious moments, including some gruesome hand-to-hand combat, but it also 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.