Jack Reacher review

Tom Cruise fights off the critics' concerns

When Tom Cruise was announced as Jack Reacher, fans of novelist Lee Child’s creation were in uproar. How could the 5ft 7in Cruiser play this 6ft5in justice-dispensing drifter? Well, it seems size really doesn’t matter, for Cruise more than fills Reacher’s boots in this highly enjoyable thriller, one that seems destined to be the inaugural episode in a franchise that could run alongside the star’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ series. 

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The right Reacher? Tom Cruise set out to prove critics wrong (Credit: Wenn)
Admittedly, Reacher is very different to Cruise’s ‘M:I’ character Ethan Hunt. An ex-military cop, now living off-the-grid with barely a change of clothes to his name, he is a rough-hewn mix of brains and brawn, the edgiest character Cruise has played since ‘Magnolia.’ Symbolised by that red Chevy muscle car he drives, Reacher is like a throwback to the 1970s – a Dirty Harry-like figure, who treads a fine line between enforcing the law and snapping it in half.

It’s this old-fashioned quality that lets ‘Jack Reacher’, the film, stand out from the crowd. Adapted from ‘One Shot’ – the ninth book in the Reacher series – it begins with a precision-tooled scene that feels straight out of ‘The Day of the Jackal.’ A lone sniper arrives in a parking lot, assembles his weapon and takes out five passers-by, seemingly at random. Almost wordless in its execution, it’s a real heart-thumping, tone-setter.

Soon enough, the cops trace the slaughter to ex-military sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora), led by a stray fingerprint and an abandoned shell casing. Refusing to talk, he makes one request: Reacher. So begins a twisty plot that sees Cruise’s vigilante investigate the case in conjunction with Barr’s attorney, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) – both becoming increasingly convinced that Barr has been set-up.

In a story that sees corruption on every corner, what can be said, without fear of spoilers, is that in the shadows lurks ‘The Zec’ (Werner Herzog), a former survivor from a Siberian prison camp as cold-blooded as they come. He’s a chilling creation – and casting the German film director Herzog, his words haunting the screen with that unique deliberate delivery of his, is a masterful move on the part of writer-director Chris McQuarrie.

There are also robust turns by Jai Courtney (as The Zec’s henchman) and the iconic Robert Duvall (as a trigger-happy gun-range owner who provides able back-up for Reacher), while Pike acquits herself admirably amid all the testosterone. McQuarrie, who knows a thing or two about corkscrew-plotting, after winning an Oscar for ‘The Usual Suspects’, also keeps things tight, taut and tense, blending head-scratching with visceral fight scenes and one major ‘French Connection’ inspired car chase.

If there’s a problem with ‘Jack Reacher’, it’s twofold. Firstly, the magnificent Herzog is underused; and the expected confrontation with Reacher never really materialises, or at least not in a particularly satisfying way. Secondly, the finale – a huge fire-fight showdown in a quarry – lacks the finesse of what’s gone before. It feels rushed and clumsy, as if ‘The Expendables’ crew had suddenly parachuted in. But it’s a rare misstep in an otherwise ruthlessly executed thriller. 

Rating: 4/5