Film review: Jack Reacher

Kick-ass role: Cruise may not measure up to Lee Childs' man-mountain hero, but he seems able to handle himself. Picture: AP
Kick-ass role: Cruise may not measure up to Lee Childs' man-mountain hero, but he seems able to handle himself. Picture: AP
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HE DOESN’T doesn’t have a mobile phone or a credit card, and he travels almost everywhere by bus. But living like my mother is not the most remarkable thing about Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher (12A)

Director: Chris McQuarrie

Running time: 130 minutes

* * *

It’s that for the first time in a long while we have a Tom Cruise movie that I enjoyed without thinking of ten other actors who would be more fun to watch in the same role.

It opens with an apparently random sniper attack, training the crosshairs of a rifle on a baseball stadium before killing five people with six shots. The case’s chief investigator (David Oyelowo) finds a pile of forensic evidence that links the murders to a former military sniper (Joseph Sikora). Within the first ten minutes, he’s been located, arrested and charged. In the interrogation room, he scribbles down one request: get Jack Reacher.

Even before anyone can say “who is Jack Reacher”, he’s on his way. A former military policeman whose default setting is “terse”, he possesses phenomenal deductive powers. In other words, he’s like a hot, modern Sherlock Holmes, always two or three steps ahead of everyone else. Mind you, that’s not difficult: as written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Jack Reacher isn’t nearly as complex as McQuarrie’s script for The Usual ­Suspects.

This is the first adaptation of a hugely popular series of books by Lee Childs, which has caused much hilarity by casting Cruise, because in the books Reacher is a blond man-mountain who is almost seven feet tall, while Cruise probably has difficulty getting on some of the rides at fairgrounds.

Does this matter? I don’t think so. When set upon by five hired thugs, Cruise is pretty convincing in the business of kicking their asses, although if I could give advice to any hired thugs hoping to beat a hero to a bloody pulp, it would be “why bother waiting your turn? This isn’t a bus queue”.

There are (long and slightly boring) car chases and more beatings and several heavy hints as to how much the sniper’s defence lawyer (Rosamund Pike) would like to have sexytime with Reacher. But what really works is Cruise’s natural, intense weirdness. Reacher’s gifts are ridiculous – a body you can bounce bricks off, a mind like an episode of QI, a total lack of self-doubt and an ability to handwash his one set of clothes each night and have them dry by the next morning – but when he’s played by a man whose eccentricities offscreen include volunteering to abseil Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, it makes Reacher look like Jim Broadbent.

The pity of it is that Cruise is allowed to hog the film, when a more balanced approach would allow us to savour the contributions of some terrific craggy supporting players, including Robert Duvall as a crinkly, ornery gun-range ­owner, Richard Jenkins as a possibly bad-apple DA, and most remarkably of all, the German director Werner Herzog as a villain called The Zec. Herzog has the kind of voice you might expect from an ­irritable Bavarian snake, but unfortunately after he reveals that he chewed off most of his own fingers in a Siberian prison camp to save himself from gangrene, the film doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. In terms of pulp thrills, and shirtless stars, this is ­sturdy enough, but Jack ­Reacher never exceeds anyone’s grasp. «

Twitter: @SiobhanSynnot

On general release from Wednesday