I prefer my Tom Cruise action films a little crazy and more than slightly ridiculous. (Hell, I even kinda like Knight and Day.) Jack Reacher delivers on both counts. Based on the character created by Lee Child, Cruise stars as former Military Police officer turned professional nomad who shows up in Pittsburgh when a former Army sniper (Joseph Sikora) is accused of killing five people.
As Reacher tells the man’s attorney (Rosamund Pike), he doesn’t show up to save Barr (Sikora) but to bury him. With Barr in a coma after a prison beat down, the only way Reacher can get the proof he needs to make sure Barr gets the needle is to agree to work with his lawyer. However, the more Reacher digs into the case the more, to his increasing frustration, it appears Barr was framed for the crime. Reacher also discovers the killings weren’t as random as everyone believes.
I’ve never read a Jack Reacher novel, and I’m not sure this film sells me on the character quite enough to pick one up anytime soon. However, as a fun B-movie action flick Jack Reacher succeeds.
The script does get a little cute for its own good by making Pike’s do gooder the daughter of the city’s cutthroat District Attorney (Richard Jenkins) and by throwing in a couple of late twists and betrayals that aren’t really necessary.
Reacher’s style of investigation, snooping around and kicking up enough of a fuss until someone makes a run at him and gives the former Military Police officer a legitimate lead, reminds me of Robert B. Parker‘s Spenser series. The action scenes are often both humorous and brutal, as well as well-choreographed, and thankfully aren’t a mess of quick-cut shaky-cam footage.
Pike and Cruise don’t have much chemistry, but thankfully the script doesn’t require a love story. Notable supporting performances including Werner Herzog as the creepy former Siberian prisoner turned head of a vast underground criminal network, Jai Courtney as the real assassin, Robert Duvall as the ornery owner of a local gun range, and Alexia Fast as a young woman whose friends get on the wrong side of Reacher in a bar fight that leaves most of them hospitalized.
More than plot problems or issues either in front of or behind the camera, what turns out to be working against the film is bad timing. Jack Reacher opens with an extended sequence shown through the the scope of the sniper who targets innocent victims, including a young woman carrying a child, before finally pulling the trigger. Given the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary School some in the audience may feel a little squeamish. If not for the recent tragedy odds are audiences wouldn’t think twice about the film’s opening, but there’s a good chance some object the emotionless way the assassin takes down his chosen targets. However, Jack Reacher does go above and beyond most action thrillers to give a voice to its nameless victims which helps mitigate the opening scene for those troubled by it.
Jack Reacher isn’t a great film, but if you’re searching for a fun action flick in the middle of more dramatic Oscar contenders and cute family films it certainly fits the bill. It won’t rank among Cruise’s best work by any means, but the the movie is more fun than it has the right to be and delivers a pretty good mystery and some highly enjoyable fight sequences showcasing Reacher skillfully working his way through every obstacle put in his path to get to the truth and deliver his brand of justice.