21 December 2012

Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise is shown in a scene from "Jack Reacher."

"You think I'm a hero? I'm not a hero. I'm a drifter with nothing to lose."

He's Jack Reacher, protagonist of the film of the same name, a former military police officer who now wanders the United States, regularly collecting his pension but leaving no other trace—no family, no home, no car, no driver's license, no clothes other than what he's wearing.

He's the star of a series of mystery novels by Lee Child (now at 17 and counting); "Jack Reacher" is based on the ninth, "One Shot," published in 2005. In the books, he's an intimidating physical presence—6 feet 5 inches tall, 250 pounds—not exactly what comes to mind when you think of Tom Cruise.

At 50 years old(?!), Cruise still doesn't look his age (he looks younger than me, and I'm 33), but he's got enough years on him to effectively convey the world-weariness of a military veteran. Tight-lipped and stoic, he makes every word count and carries himself with a quiet, menacing confidence. When he's involved in a five-on-one brawl, it's the five who are at a disadvantage. He's Jason Bourne if Jason Bourne had the comic timing to deliver a good wisecrack.

He's also a brilliant investigator, with a photographic memory and unencumbered by those pesky laws police officers must follow.

When a sniper murders five seemingly random people in Pittsburgh, accused shooter James Barr (Joseph Sikora), instead of confessing, writes three words: "Get Jack Reacher."

Reacher, who has a history with Barr, becomes the lead investigator for defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), daughter of the district attorney (Richard Jenkins), and quickly comes to the conclusion that Barr was framed.

Tom Cruise, right, and Jai Courtney are shown in a scene from "Jack Reacher."
Written for the screen and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (writer of "The Usual Suspects"), "Jack Reacher" is a smart whodunnit punctuated by visceral action and sly wit. The bad guys' Evil Plot and the shoot-'em-up climax are a bit of a letdown, but mysteries are more about getting there than what the "there" actually is.

With so much more available source material, this could be just the beginning for Jack Reacher on the big screen. Given Hollywood's willingness to make a franchise out of anything, we could do much, much worse.

Greg’s Grade: A-

(Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material. 130 minutes.)

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