“I’m not a hero. I’m a drifter with nothing to lose!”
That amazing line, spouted by a surly Tom Cruise, is merely an appetizer for Jack Reacher, a veritable smorgasbord of stony-faced, hard-boiled dialogue imbued with the gravitas of a Shakespearean actor savoring Hamlet. It’s a study in absurd tough guy poetry, lacking the self-awareness of Tarantino or Mamet, but delivered with so much oomph that you can’t help smiling. Especially when Werner Herzog shows up and starts icily reminiscing about chewing off his frostbitten fingers…
Based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child – the ninth entry in the so-far 17-volume Reacher series – the picture is a delightfully analog ode to the old school crime thriller; an energetic exercise in reliable noir tropes gussied up with high wattage charisma and low key cool. Not a whole lot makes sense, but who cares? You don’t take in a film like this for logic, so much as to revel in Hollywood grit, violence and badass attitude. And on that front, Reacher delivers with style.
Written and directed by The Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie – who previously helmed 2000’s underrated rough-edged gem The Way of the Gun – Jack Reacher casts Cruise as a no-nonsense former military investigator who lives like a modern day wandering samurai, off the grid and free of human attachments. Drawn into the case of a mass-murdering Pittsburgh sniper, he quickly draws the attention of both the gunman’s public defender (Rosamund Pike – dressed like a teenage boy’s erotic fantasy of a female professional) and the local criminal element, personified by a dead-eyed, and invaluable, Herzog. Of course, it isn’t long before punches are being hurled and classic cars are squealing at high speeds across the asphalt. Did I mention not all is as it seems, either?
There’s very little you haven’t seen before here, yet, thanks largely to the intense dedication of its magnetic lead, the film fires along at an admirably strong clip. The Cruise Show may not be as potent a draw as it once was, though there’s no denying it’s a show that still works. And, because McQuarrie surrounds him with a stellar supporting cast – including Richard Jenkins and Robert Duvall – and has a terrific instinct for macho atmosphere and action, this star vehicle hums like a well-oiled engine, muscular and brimming with confidence.
Jack Reacher won’t set the multiplex ablaze with originality or bold innovation. However, it’s a solid and engaging red-blooded B-picture that exceeds expectations, offering a few surprises and thrills in the process. And, you know something? Sometimes that’s more than enough.