The “man-with-no-name” archetype is a snug-fit for Mr. Cruise whose Jack Reacher, an adaptation of Lee Child's macho-novel hero, is perhaps a bigger babe-magnet than most of the males in Pittsburg.
As if drenched in the Axe-effect, Jack’s sex pheromone has women weak-kneed around him – which I am pretty sure has more to do with Mr. Cruise's personal magnetism than Jack's. The image of swooning females, however, is distracting, because Jack's here on serious bone-breaking business (perhaps, as serious as any Steven Seagal movie).
A sniper picks and guns down five random people –including a baby's nanny –in broad daylight. A brief (un-sci-fi) CSI investigation later, a suspect (Joseph Sikora), is nabbed, who scribbles down “Get Jack Reacher” in large block letters, and then ends up in a coma.
“Who is Jack?” – the question comes up more often than any dialogue in the movie; and that too in a variety of spins.
A sketchy bio tells us that Jack is ex-military, without a fixed postal address (and near as I can tell, no Facebook account or cell phone with GPRS); he's like a hard to pin down vigilante from the West – one who discards old-clothes on the run and prefers to pick up his cheques via Western Union.
Some brief head-scratching follows –“You don't find this guy unless he wants to be found”, someone tells us.
This, however, is the least of the film’s mysteries, as Jack himself walks in and introduces himself to the district attorney (Richard Jenkins) and the lead detective (David Oyelowo) handling the case.
Ok, so Jack’s here…what do we do now? Apparently, almost hand him the case.
Jack – who has a more sensible noggin – is as clueless as anyone within or outside the movie screen; and this includes his co-lead played by Rosamund Pike, the all-for-law lawyer who is also the district attorney's partially-estranged daughter.
Courtesy photoMs. Pike, whose teasers and trailers tell us she will have a damsel-in-distress moment later in the movie, is awkwardly directed by writer and director Christopher McQuarrie (writer of Valkyrie, also starring Mr. Cruise). For Jack Reacher, Ms. Pike is limited to perform two not so distinct modes of expression: One – to stare dumb founded during the movie's (never amped up) drama sequences; and Two – to go googly-eyed when she's alone with Jack (especially when Mr. Cruise has a Salman Khan shirtless moment).
Jack Reacher is a drag that offloads a bulk of its weight on Mr. Cruise's star-power. While Mr. Cruise has a firm handle on Jack (and not an original one, might I add), it’s the rest of the film – the setting, the pace, the drama, even the ever dependent cinematography by Caleb Deschanel that needs urgent patch work.
A late bit by Robert Duvall shines up the last 30 minutes, as does the brief bit by Alexia Fast, who plays Sandy, a young and easy girl with a small-town mentality. Not only is Ms. Fast in-tune with the aimless typicality of her character, she is also a springboard who partially winds-up Jack for his climatic villain killing spree.
Courtesy photoWe know that the guy in the coma is a patsy (aren’t they always though), and Jack will beat himself a bloody path of mangled arms and dented fenders getting to the film's stereotypical villain played by Werner Herzog (with one stone eye nonetheless).
Seeing Mr. Cruise's lively action moves the villain should just pack-up and leave early – a thought the movie’s audience might find tempting as well, if only the ticket prices weren’t so darn expensive.
Released by Paramount Pictures and Footprint Media, Jack Reacher is rated PG-13 – Parents strongly cautioned; B-movie tedium – and the future promise of a sequel – awaits.
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Despite living movies 24/7 (http://kamranjawaid.com), the writer is still truly, madly, deeply in love with cinema; the root cause of this anomaly requires further clinical trials.
He tweets @kamranjawaid
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