Disappointing us with his falsetto in the jukebox musical Rock of Ages, Tom Cruise returns with the action-thriller Jack Reacher; the first, and unlikely to be the last film based on Lee Child’s bestselling crime fiction series.
Cruise is the eponymous anti-hero; an enigmatic ex-military cop using his brain, brawn and ego to bring criminals to justice. Whilst he may not have the blonde locks, towering height, or formidable muscle mass of Child’s literary creation, the pint-sized patron saint of Scientology is strong here, adopting the same wit, surly demeanour and cocksure charisma which has made him such a bankable movie star.
After a six-shot rampage leaves five innocent bystanders dead, the hospitalised lead suspect begs the police to bring in the only man who can solve the case, Jack Reacher.
Soon enough, the nomadic Reacher arrives. Together with defence attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), a little digging turns this allegedly open-and-shut case into a Pandora’s box of secrets and corruption.
Adapted/directed by Christopher McQuarrie – best known as the Oscar winning writer of The Usual Suspects – the embellished script allows space for the supporting cast to shine. Pike has great chemistry with Cruise from the outset, brilliant as the sexy-smart sidekick. Elsewhere, Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo put in reliably good performances as the discerning detectives in the wings.
But the oldies really steal the show, with Robert Duvall as a brusque gun ranch proprietor, and German filmmaker Werner Herzog as the cartoonish villain, a glass-eyed Siberian war-prisoner called ‘The Zec’.
Shot in a gritty, old-fashioned style, such a rough finish turns Reacher from a quintessential action man into a 21st century Dirty Harry; willing to break the law to catch the bad guys. His arrogance does start to annoy, but the bareknuckle brawls, throwaway one liners and a rousing car chase sequence keep us enthralled.
A scattering of good moments doesn’t stop Jack Reacher from outstaying its 130-minute running time. Built on action-thriller clichés, the film takes itself far too seriously to be mindless entertainment; reaching for fifth gear, but struggling to get out of Cruise control.