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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jack Reacher Movie Review

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, "Jack Reacher" is adapted from Lee Child's novel "One Shot" (the ninth Reacher novel in a series of 17 so far) and is also the beginning of a possible new franchise for star and producer Tom Cruise.

The first thing this adaptation asks audiences to adapt to is Tom Cruise as ex-military investigator Jack Reacher. At six-foot-five and 250 pounds in the novel, that's more than a bit of a reach. Cruise, however, is still one of the biggest stars on the big screen, and not for nothing. He succeeds here in making himself larger than life with a one-two punch of swagger and coldness.

After an opening Pittsburgh sniper scene (which is given unintended but unavoidable resonance from the recent Newtown, CT school shootings) the apprehended suspect Barr (Joseph Sikora) has nothing to say but: "Get Jack Reacher". Surprisingly (and somewhat comically), the off-the-grid Jack Reacher appears and discovers that the airtight case against Barr has a lot of holes. This puts him at odds with Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins), and even at times the suspect's conflicted defense attorney (and D.A.'s daughter) Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike).

The hard-boiled plot, as it must, thickens. As it does, there are the expected fistfights, car chases, gunplay, and bloodshed, many of which involve another sniper, Charlie (Jai Courtney), and the good-hearted bad girl Sandy (Alexia Fast). Tom Cruise could do these scenes in his sleep, and whenever he makes the occasional boyish grin or wisecrack, it seems he is.

Though this alpha male is a lone wolf, Reacher gets some assistance from shooting range owner Cash (a somewhat wasted Robert Duvall) who is presented as a wise elder and occasional jokester. This is one of several instances of lightness blended into an otherwise dark movie, which most notably includes a borderline slapstick scene with bumbling bad guys.

One of many utilized stock characters - the German-accented villain - is given an unexpected turn in the form of Werner Herzog. Herzog's presence will be initially jarring to those used to hearing him narrate thoughtful documentaries with a gentle humanism. However, the renowned director sinks his teeth into the role of the evil Zec, a former gulag prisoner without fingers on one hand (which an imprisoned Zec had to sink his own teeth into).

A final showdown in a rock quarry starts out smart but devolves into more clichéd heroics. Though "Jack Reacher" reaches to be something more, its grip isn't strong enough to keep from falling back onto standard action movie muscle memory.

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