Fans were more than underwhelmed when Tom Cruise bought the rights to Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels and announced he would be Reacher in the movie (or movies if ticket sales warrant more than one).
It would be tough to convince readers who pictured a big, blond hulk of a man as Reacher that the shorter, darker Cruise could be as intimidating and as tough.
But, though it takes awhile, Cruise actually does a fair job in the role in "Jack Reacher" in this first attempt. He buys some cache by simply acting so well and can be forgiven for not looking the part.
The scenes are carefully shot as well to minimize the fact that Cruise simply is not a big man.
As Reacher though, Cruise is sharp and quick on the draw. He wins his battles by surprising his formidable foes with sudden, efficient moves and simply crunching fingers and other important body parts to gain the advantage.
He doesn't follow the pattern for the regular hero. He shows up when he wants to show up and he's ready to walk at a given moment rather than be told what he's obligated to do. He's a free thinker who is motivated simply by the inclination to make something right, if and when he wants.
And though at first, it feels like as Reacher, Cruise is just a pretty good Tom Cruise. As the movie progresses, Cruise grows into the role and becomes more like the real deal, though he'll never look like the desk sergeant (who is actually the Reacher books' author, Lee Child).
The movie is absorbing and the story — based on Child's book "One Shot" — is interesting, unpredictable and entertaining.
In the opening moments, a sniper methodically takes out what appears to be a random handful of people, and the man accused of the crime asks for Reacher.
Reacher knows the suspect and doesn't like him. In fact, he's been pursuing him for years, but he can't buy into the perfect evidence from the initial crime scene.
It's a mystery that unfolds as attorney Helen Rodin (played by Rosamund Pike) and detective Emerson (played by David Oyelowo) try to figure out what the now comatose suspect had in mind.
Robert Duvall is great in his role as the gun shop owner Martin Cash. Alexia Fast makes a nice statement in her role as Sandy. Werner Herzog is a truly chilling villain.
In this movie, the obvious isn't the truth. There's a definite question of who can be trusted.
Pike plays off Cruise well. She's smart, used to being in charge and impressed with Reacher in spite of her initial misgivings. She just isn't sure who the bad guys are, and she has real problems with her father, the D.A., played by Richard Jenkins. (By the way, she has hair that is unmussed even after she's been knocked down, but that's just picky.)
The car chase scenes in this movie are dramatic, especially backwards and in the dark. The story unfolds with humor, which is good because it's also heavy with violence.
Audiences should beware that in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, the opening scenes with the sniper focusing in on a little girl running with her nanny are eerily painful.
But Reacher fans expect a movie based on this larger-than-life character who travels about with only a toothbrush and not even a change of clothes, to be full of danger and a guy who always wins despite the uneven odds.
Add in color, wild turns and plenty of action, and you have "Jack Reacher," a Tom Cruise triumph if you will.
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