Tom Cruise believes he has found another franchise to star in and produce with the release of Jack Reacher. There is no question the man can command the screen in an action role. Evidence of that arrived merely 12 months ago in the form of the biggest hit of Cruise's career with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Based on the book series by Lee Child, we are introduced to Jack Reacher with this first film in what the superstar hopes is another successful film series. Our Jack Reacher review wonders: Will he get the chance?
The movie starts in Pittsburgh with, given the recent national tragedy in Connecticut, the unfortunate villain introduction of a man who is shooting dead a random group of innocent people walking near PNC Park. Once the shooting stops, five are dead and the man accused only says two words when he's interrogated: Jack Reacher. Who is this guy? Two fronts emerge in the storytelling at this point. Richard Jenkins' district attorney is known as the man who never fails at getting a death row conviction. The shooter is represented by Rosamund Pike's Helen. She just happens to be Jenkins' daughter and takes the case despite her firm's gross objections.
Between them they dig up info on Reacher. He's ex-military, with expert skills on all fronts, especially as a military police investigator. Two years ago Reacher retired and promptly dropped off the radar. Thanks to this case, he's back.
Director Christopher McQuarrie knows how to expertly dish out the clues while the cinematic shock and awe leaves the audience in utter suspense. He wrote The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie -- where his Jack Reacher star became enamored of his work. And Cruise's intuition that the two would work well together as helmer and star-producer was spot on. They have a rapport that is felt through every inch of the film. Given each of their backgrounds, more than many films we can recall, Jack Reacher is the rare film where director and star are so in tune, you cannot tell where one stops and the other begins.
But that is not enough to make the film an explosive sensation. Yes, the Reacher character in Cruise's hands we wouldn't mind visiting with again. But, there is nothing in this first installment that screams for more. It's a solid enough effort, but when the "f" word is tossed around in terms of building a star legacy, perhaps it is here a case of the cart being put in front of the horse.
Perhaps it's because of the shooting in Newton, Connecticut that having the multiple murders at the heart of your murder-mystery be from a shooter ambushing a public place is why the film did not resonate.
Even though, in the books, Reacher is well over six-feet tall and blond and Cruise is well... Cruise, it doesn't matter. The superstar is sensational in creating a character different in so many ways than any he's played before. Perhaps it could be seen as a greatest hits performance as he encompasses all of his lawman-military-enforcer parts in one nuanced piece of acting?
Maybe that's going way too far!
The movie does cook and it has the promise of a cool character for Cruise in the long term. Proof of McQuarrie's talent is in the Jack Reacher trailer, and its half-dozen action scenes that are as compelling to watch as some of Cruise's best. The sum of the parts here is solid, but getting there, well... there are mysteries that miss.
The supporting cast raises their game -- including a surprise turn from Robert Duvall -- but overall the first feature in what might be a series for Cruise stumbles a little bit out of the gate. It's above average and completely entertaining, but something is afoot that prevents us from all-out loving Jack Reacher. Yet... we still want more.