Jack Reacher (1988) / Thriller-Action

MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material
Length: 130 min.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall, Jai Courtney, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James, Alexia Fast, Josh Helman
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie (based on the book, "One Shot", by Lee Child)
Review published January 3, 2013

Jack Reacher 2012Jack Reacher is an adaptation of Lee Child's best-selling novel, "One Shot", which is the ninth book to feature the titular former U.S. Army MP investigator. The story involves the shooting and slaying of five random people at the riverfront outside of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA from someone using a sniper rifle. The case is headed by Detective Emerson (Oyelowo, Lincoln) working with DA Alex Rodin (Jenkins, Friends with Benefits), and all signs point to an ex-Army sniper named James Barr (Sikora, Shutter Island), who had once snapped in the past while on assignment in Iraq, killing several innocent people, but the incident became a PR nightmare that ended up getting buried for fear of public outcry. Under questioning, the only thing Barr writes down in his confession are the words, "GET JACK REACHER".

Reacher (Cruise, Rock of Ages) happens to have investigated the Iraq incident, and has been in the US as a drifter with whereabouts he keeps secret from nearly everyone, but he does show up for this, if only to see Barr finally brought to justice. On his way back to custody, Barr is beaten by fellow inmates to the point of coma, unable to speak for himself, leaving Reacher, working closely with Barr's defense attorney (and daughter of the DA), Helen Rodin (Pike, Wrath of the Titans), to put the pieces of the case together without his testimony. Meanwhile, someone's out to get Reacher out of the picture, and the who and why of this may lead to new avenues of this once open-and-shut case.

Jack Reacher is written and directed by Oscar-winning scribe Christopher McQuarrie (screenwriter for The Tourist, The Usual Suspects) , and the result is a bit of a mixed bag, but entertaining enough to ultimately recommend for fans of Cruise and genre enthusiasts who aren't particularly choosy. Cruise turns in a nice performance, even though fans of the books have expressed issues with the fact that he doesn't have the same looks or build (Reacher is a beefy 6'5" in the novels) as described in the books.

The script is interesting, if talky at times, though the story itself begins to become implausible as each new fact begins to emerge, until it eventually begins to be too tough to swallow. Ultimately, you begin to care less about the explanation and merely watch the film for the gunfights and hand-to-hand combat, which are the highlights of the climax.

The supporting cast is fine, though forgettable, and famous director and filmmaker Werner Herzog (What Dreams May Come, The Grand) might have made for a far more interesting and formidable heavy were he not vastly underused (he's probably not in the film more than 15 minutes out of the total screen time.) Robert Duvall (Thank You for Smoking, Kicking & Screaming) appears late in the film as a gun shop and shooting range owner to add a bit of much needed character color.

An air of mystery surrounds the character of Jack Reacher, and while very little is painted in as far as who he is and what makes him tick (other than his military background), we're never really curious to learn much more. Nevertheless, he's fun to watch as he gets into fighting mode, which features a few clever and memorable moves (in one instance, Reacher beats on one thug's head with the head of another thug). As we never quite get a finger on Reacher's pulse, and as the first adapted mystery out of the gate is watchable but not spectacular, the prospect of this continuing a lucrative series for Cruise seems dim.
Qwipster's rating:

©2013 Vince Leo