Off-the-grid tough guy pursues a sniper
You know those people who believe everything they say is super-clever, super-funny, just priceless?
The Jack Reacher played by Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher is one of those guys.
"You think?" a woman says, responding to one of his sage observations.
"All the time," Reacher replies. "You should try it."
Whoa, what a put-down! This dude would kill in the seventh grade.
Speaking of killing (sigh), Jack Reacher - adapted from One Shot, one of the Lee Child novels starring the ex-Army hotshot investigator - is what brings Reacher to Pittsburgh: A sniper has taken down five strangers walking along the riverfront on a sunny day, and although the shooter's aim is deadly and his demeanor deathly calm, the evidence he leaves behind is a homicide investigator's dream. Practically before the opening credits are over, James Mark Barr (Joseph Sikora) has been arrested and charged with the crime.
But instead of signing the confession pushed in front of him in the interrogation room, Barr scrawls "Get Jack Reacher" on the page. And somehow, Reacher, who has been off the grid for two years (he travels by bus, pays in cash, doesn't carry a change of clothes), answers the call.
I can't pretend to know what drew Cruise - who, after all, is Ethan Hunt in the thriving Mission: Impossible franchise - to play this charmless, unironic macho hero. Reacher does get to punch swarms of punks and rev a muscle car over the Steel City hills, and he gets Rosamund Pike to look at him like she's going to swoon. Maybe that's enough.
Pike is Helen Rodin, the defense attorney picked to represent Barr. Her dad (Richard Jenkins) happens to be the city's district attorney, working with Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo, from The Paperboy) to send Barr to jail for the rest of his life.
But Reacher thinks it's too perfect a case. When he starts being followed and threatened, seduced in a bar booth and clunked on the head in a bathtub, he's even more certain. He's nobody's fool, this Reacher.
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for his wickedly smart The Usual Suspects screenplay (and who scripted the Cruise Nazi thriller, Valkyrie), Jack Reacher pushes its formula plot toward a big nighttime shootout in an excavation site. The violence is plenty, and pointless. Robert Duvall shows up as an ornery rifleman who gives Reacher cover as he moves in to deal with the bad guys, and ace documentarian Werner Herzog, in a rare turn as a Hollywood villain, is a one-eyed coot who chewed his fingers off rather than lose them to frostbite.
At least that's what he says, trying to impress anyone who will listen with his alarming evilness. And his alarming accent.