Jack Reacher | Film reviews, news & interviews
Tom Cruise gives it 110 per cent, but is he big enough to play Lee Child's hero?
Fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels are spitting feathers that their fictional hero is being played by Tom Cruise. This is not least because in the books, Reacher is a hulking fellow built like a giant redwood with fists the size of dustbins (he's six foot five and 250 pounds). And probably not a Scientologist. Tom is five-seven and weighs practically nothing.
But as ever, the obsessive Cruise has gone into the project with beady-eyed gung-ho-ness, and if he doesn't measure up to anyone's ideal of Reacherhood, there's no doubting his energy and commitment. At 50, he's been putting in fanatical quantities of hours with the weights in order to be able to take his shirt off, even if this makes Rosamund Pike, playing defence lawyer Helen Rodin, put her head in her hands and tell him to put it back on again (Pike and Cruise pictured below). He's also just as good at firing guns, martial arts and driving cars the wrong way up the freeway as young(er) whippersnappers like Jeremy Renner or Matt Damon.
He has efficient but unimaginative support from director Christopher McQuarrie, who also adapted Child's novel One Shot for the screenplay here. The result is an intermittently tense action thriller which delivers a respectable quota of beatings, shootings and wrecked vehicles, but despite some attempts at humour, like a peculiar slapstick scene featuring thugs with baseball bats, it can't transcend its familiar genre. Indestructible loner comes in from the cold to pick holes in an ostensibly open-and-shut murder case and mete out his own private justice. Sound familiar at all?
The film-makers were unlucky with their timing, since the story is based around the search for the perpetrator of an apparently random mass shooting in broad daylight in Pittsburgh. Following the real-life massacre in Connecticut, Reacher's US premiere had to be postponed, and it remains to be seen whether the anti-firearms backlash will put a dent in seasonal multiplex activity.
Anyway, Reacher's task is to unravel the murky truth behind the five random and seemingly motiveless killings. A veteran of various wars as a military policeman, the wraith-like Reacher is untraceable until he wants not to be, but is mystically called into action when the man accused of the shootings, Barr (Joseph Sikora), writes "Get Jack Reacher" on a notepad. As the DA (Richard Jenkins) and detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) are discussing the baffling lack of evidence for Reacher's very existence, the man himself obligingly walks through the door.
Reacher, whose analytical aperçus are supposedly one of his defining characteristics, soon finds that the seemingly bomb-proof evidence against Barr - spent cartridges, fingerprints, CCTV footage of his van - may have been elaborately faked (no, really?). Soon the labyrinthine hunt is on, as Reacher works his way up the criminal food chain from cheap hired muscle of quite extraordinary stupidity to a sinister corporate conspiracy and a nexus of unpleasant wet-job experts.
Chief of the hitmen is Zec, a mangled veteran from the Siberian gulags who had to eat his own fingers to survive. He's played by Werner Herzog - the Werner Herzog (pictured left) - with one opaque eye and a hissing Germanic accent (his lines sound as though they were printed in Gothic lettering on Dr Frankenstein's ancient mechanical press) in a performance pantomimic enough to provoke mirth in my fellow viewers. I couldn't work out whether this was a knowing cinematic in-joke or just a casting disaster, but it wreaks havoc with any pretence of tonal continuity.
As does the flick's panicky uncertainty about whether it intends to suggest any sexual content. There are a couple of moments when it looks as if Pike and Cruise are about to get it on, especially the bit where they suddenly get Pike to lean forward on her desk and push her boobs together under her low-cut top, but then everyone seems to have thought better of it. Pike looks mildly panic-stricken throughout, and not just when she's tied up by the bad guys.
Disappointingly, the flick trundles towards its inevitable outcome without springing any stunning surprises or flabbergasting reveals. It's unlikely that the tiny cameo by Lee Child as a police desk sergeant is going to save it from the wrath of Reach-o-philes.
- Jack Reacher goes on release on Wednesday 26 December
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