Movies: "Jack Reacher" | Arts & Culture
The thing millions of readers of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels all know is that this almost-mythical American drifter and crime stopper is a big guy, 6 foot five inches tall and built like a missile silo. The thing most moviegoers know about Tom Cruise is he’s not so much. But it took Cruise to get this first Reacher movie made: he not only stars in it, but produced it as well. So give him credit for that.
“Jack Reacher” is based on Child’s novel “One Shot,” about a seemingly-random sniper attack in downtown Pittsburgh. I must admit the movie’s opening scenes of the killings are disconcerting, coming so soon after the real-life slaughter in Newtown, CT. Peering through a sniper scope at men, women and children going about their normal activities is unpleasant, but screenwriter/director Christopher McQuarrie (who also scripted that minor classic “The Usual Suspects”) has the decency to spare us the worst of the bloodshed.
Within a few hours, the cops have a man in custody, but DA Rodin (the great Richard Jenkins) and his chief investigator Emerson (David Oyelowo, last seen as a Union corporal in “Lincoln”) allow the suspect (Joseph Sikora) to be beaten into a coma by other prisoners. His only statement before the beating was to ask his captors to find Jack Reacher -- who, for reasons of his own, surprises them by showing up in Pittsburgh.
Before long, Reacher is fighting five guys outside a bar, getting hired by the suspect’s defense attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike, who co-starred in the delightful little English movie, “Made in Dagenham”) as her investigator, fighting some more guys in a scene worthy of the Three Stooges, and getting framed for murder.
Cruise may be a lot smaller than Reacher, but he handles the physical stuff well, throwing kicks and punches like a veteran street fighter. There’s also a well-staged car chase involving a Firebird, an Audi and about as many police cars as we saw in “The Blues Brothers.”
And there’s some clever casting among the supporting players. The young Alexia Fast is appealing as a local girl in with the wrong crowd; old hand Robert Duvall shows up as an gun-totin’ ex-Marine; and the great German director Werner Herzog (“Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and, more recently, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”) plays a mysterious Russian character called The Zek (the prisoner). Just how his pronounced German accent is supposed to sound Russian is beyond me, but at least it's foreign.
Oh, and one more cameo worth your notice: there’s a scene in which Reacher is being released from jail, and as he reclaims his few belongings from a police desk sergeant, he explains to Helen why he thinks the people following him are not police. At one point, he turns to the cop for a response, and the cop agrees.
The cop is Lee Child.
So how good is this movie? It’s just okay. I liked the script for its smarts and its faithfulness to Child’s hero. But even with its cast of veterans, it still seemed like a cable TV pilot. Still, I hope this turns into a franchise: Reacher is worth it.
“Jack Reacher” is rated PG-13 for violence and language, with no sex to speak of. I give it a B.