Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall and Werner Herzog
Running Time: 130 minutes
Release Date: December 26th
When thinking of movie genres, it’s hard to imagine that one actor could be a rule upon themself. But with Tom Cruise, it couldn’t be any more true. Like any genre, it has its staples—where the Western has its salons brawls, the Tom Cruise has lots of gratuitous running, shit-chomping grins and unnecessary shots of his bare, thorax heavy torso. Jack Reacher—an adaptation of Lee Child’s hugely successful, nomadic ex-military cop series—fits perfectly into the Cruise canon; a self-produced project with a cherry picked director and cast.
It’s also, probably, his most fun project in some time. Freed from the tormented shackles of Ethan Hunt, Cruise gets to revel in one-liners while being as icy cool as the great Irish cold snap of 2010. Child envisioned Reacher as a 6’5, 250lb behemoth. Here, Cruise adds eight inches in charisma and seventy pounds of blunt-force brutality. A running joke in Roadhouse saw people claim they thought Patrick Swayze’s Dalton would be bigger, with Cruise, it’s never a problem. He sells you on the Reacher myth immediately, an urban legend whose name seems to cause people immense amounts of pleasure by merely uttering it.
Previously titled One Shot, Reacher deals with a case of a rogue Iraq-war veteran sniper who opens fire on a crowd in downtown Pittsburgh, killing five people with six shots. When a suspect is found and charged, Reacher’s history with the shooter draws him into a seemingly open and shut case and ensures run-ins with a defense attorney (Rosamund Pike), a district attorney (Richard Jenkins), a gun range owner (Robert Duvall) and a mercurial Russian crime-lord (Werner Herzog).
Slightly more procedural than pow pow, Reacher still hits enough brawl-in-bar beats to remind you he’s more than just a crime scene savant. The action is handled with an assured crispness by Christopher McQuarrie with a long, lingering and visceral opening act and an inventive get out on the car chase showing flashy flourishes. Its finale—a ham-fisted quarry melee reminiscent of a de-fanged Taken—is the only real set piece letdown.
The supporting cast provide excellent grunt work, fulfilling their roles but knowing their place, and never overshadowing the white-hot Cruise supernova. A shout-out also to the most bizarre and inspired casting all year; Herzog’s The Zec is a marvel, and his tale of devouring his own fingers in a Siberian gulag told in his signature velvet Bavarian cadence is a year-end highlight.
With Jack Reacher, Cruise seems to have found a worthy alternative to Mission Impossible; its stationary setting allows it better plotting, character development and a more honed scope. It, too, might just be the tonic this Christmas to audiences bogged down by Bilbo, bengals and blaxploitation.