tom cruise reacher

Rating: ★★★½☆

In 1995, Christopher McQuarrie gave us a little film called The Usual Suspects which ultimately became his first (and only, to date) Oscar win. Flash-forward to 2012, and the man is now also sitting in the director’s chair with a tensed-up, lightning fast Tom Cruise mechanically taking down the villainous duo of Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney in Jack Reacher.

It’s a tough call with Cruise. He’s an actor who, 99% of the time, is the best thing on screen in his films, even if the picture itself is less than gratuitously good. He’s been both the heavy lead and the small-part scene-stealer (2008’s Tropic Thunder), so it’s really stopped becoming a question of if Cruise is going to be “good” in a film. He’s very much become a presence that embodies a character without fully committing to it; that mix of Robert Downey Jr.’s monotonous-but-fantastic delivery with Brad Pitt’s magician-like persona that sort of molds into a specific character. He’s the actor you see the entire run-time, but he’s also somehow convinced you that he’s very much the character. And he’s good here, as always. By all means, if Tom Cruise needed it, Jack Reacher does for Cruise what Taken did for Liam Neeson.

As far as the rest of the cast goes, Herzog is a new shade of brilliance. The director, famous for his documentaries, is cruelly sedated and transfixed with purpose. He’s really delegated to do nothing but scowl and gutturally threaten those beneath him, but his transformation from bit-part to pack-leader is purely defined in presence, something most action movies attempt to do, but quickly scrap. And that’s really both a testament to his unwavering and scary delivery and casting director Mindy Marin’s eye for talent. Pike, Courtney, Jenkins, and Duvall all turn in veteran performances without being too glossy or too melodramatic. They’re a cast of perfect support for this film that’s only major sufferance lies in scope. No one feels like they’re phoning it in, and no one’s gunning for the Oscar. It’s a film that very much knows its identity.

However, it’s not above horrific one-liners and noticeable quick-frame-cuts in the hand-to-hand combat sequences. McQuarrie’s film is more tell than show, and Reacher’s Sherlockian method of crime scene analyzing feels more made-for-TV-special than it does cinematic. There’s hardly any breathing room for the audience to connect to the story, rarely a time for viewers to put two-and-two together for themselves, and really ends up feeling like a blown up CSI special where you aren’t left with stimulating questions or a desire to return to the case. It’s an open-and-shut movie that looks like a four-course meal but feels like a spoon-fed breakfast. It doesn’t leave you hungry; just waiting eagerly for lunch.The humor isn’t as inflammatory or off-the-wall as McQuarrie’s Suspects and often falls flat on its face. There’s only so much any actor can do with lines like, “My birthday is in October, so you that’s how long you’ve got to talk. 1…2…3…4…” while attempting to negotiate with a primary baddie. Cruise wears the role as well as he does his jackets, so even when that dialogue falls out of his face, it’s still threatening. It’s idiotic sounding and contrived, but threatening.
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It’s an elevated action flick because it’s drenched in the old-school, flashy style that make films like Dirty Harry and Bullit so endearing, but it’s never so smart that it meets The Usual Suspects standards, and it’s never so fun that it feels like Taken. Is it worth a view? Go in expecting a better-than-average Tom Cruise kick-ass thriller and you won’t be disappointed. One level down from the action and investment of the Bourne trilogy, one level above The Transporter’s in intelligence and style and you’ve got your Jack Reacher
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This article was first posted on December 26, 2012