His action career having dwindled since the decade-old successes of The Last Samurai (2003) and Collateral (2004), Jack Reacher is Tom Cruise’s third attempt in 24 months to inject something vibrant into a crowded genre.
Knight and Day (2010) and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) may not have achieved anything especially groundbreaking, but nonetheless delivered us a few hours of enjoyable cinema, as reliably as Cruise often does.
Jack Reacher is much the same in this respect. Laughs are forthcoming, the action is well-paced and effectively choreographed, but without adding any desperately refreshing ideas to Cruise’s recent repertoire.
The film opens with much promise. When an unseen sharpshooter executes a chillingly causal daylight massacre of several innocent civilians, a sociopathic Iraq veteran is arrested and fast-tracked to death row, all conventional indicators screaming his putative guilt.
Enter his defence lawyer, Rosamund Pike, whose American accent is credible enough to make you forget where you’ve seen her before, (FYI, she’s the saucy, well-to-do evil sword-mistress from Die Another Day).
Enlisting Reacher’s help on her client’s request, her character is loosely moulded in the vein of Knight and Day’s ‘the spy and the civilian’ romance, except Pike is less helpless and irritating than Cameron Diaz (her character’s poorly extrapolated daddy-issues notwithstanding).
Reacher himself is a meticulous former military policeman gone freelance. Though it is alluded to that his abrupt discharge from service is the consequence of disillusionment and corruption, this is about the extent of his background that is revealed to the audience, leaving the character a little underdeveloped. Fortunately the movie stays rigidly glued to the development of the plot, and not the characters, which possesses much more fortitude.
The only real disappointment in said plot is the villain’s motive behind the calculated atrocity of the opening sequence. The incentive behind the massacre is oddly lacking the malice and megalomania of the massacre itself.
An appropriately disfigured Serbian convict (who introduces himself to us by explaining how he chewed off his own fingers in a Gulag – nice to meet you too, sir), is revealed as the chief orchestrator in the savage and careless slaughter of several, devised to veil the purposeful assassination of one. The power and prosperity at stake to be reaped from instigating this horrific national tragedy? A housewife’s rights to her late husband’s modest local construction firm, apparently.
Jack Reacher is probably among the better half of Cruise’s films. It re-hashes a couple of much exploited concepts, but remains well balanced between them and, as such, avoids being excessively formulaic.
The finale is slightly underwhelming, but the film is kept afloat by some reasonably humorous (if not slightly banal) dialogue. By refusing to get bogged down in the simplistic characters and get on with the plot, Jack Reacher is pacey and comical, lacking scope certainly, but never quite boring.