Though I’m personally unfamiliar with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, I did hear the complaints about Tom Cruise being too small to portray the character on film. In the books, Reacher is blond, close to six-and-a-half feet tall, weighs around 250 pounds and has hands “the size of footballs.”
Obviously, Cruise can’t compare physically, but he is one helluva actor who carries the muscular build of a middleweight boxer. So if the author’s idea of Reacher’s size was to make the ex-military investigator imposing and intimidating, Cruise delivers just fine through the sheer force of his screen presence.
After police capture an Iraq War veteran whom they believe used his military sniper training to shoot down about a half-dozen innocent people, their prisoner responds with only two words: “Jack” and “Reacher.” Before they can figure out how to find him, Reacher finds them and, with the help of a do-gooder defense attorney with daddy issues (Rosamund Pike), sets out to unravel what will end up being a fairly complicated conspiracy.
Though somewhat anti-climactic, Jack Reacher is still a satisfying action film, thanks mainly to Cruise. Though not as noisy and bombastic, the film reminded me a lot of an ’80s actioner where stoic, masculine heroes still ruled the screen and metrosexuals like Shia LaBeouf were the sidekicks who always got wasted at the end of the second act.
Better still, director Christopher McQuarrie shoots the action in that old-fashioned way where you can actually tell what is going on. A memorable highlight is an above-average car chase for which Cruise reportedly did all of his own stunts. Watch once for the visceral thrill and then watch the chase again to enjoy the creative ideas McQuarrie utilized to shoot the sequence in a way that proves Cruise is really driving.
Reacher’s a loner, a thinker, a genius (it is fun to watch his mind work as he puts the pieces together), and not a big fan of the Iraq War. But he is also a straight-up badass with no patience for bullies or his love interest’s liberal ideas about criminals.
Unfortunately, the film wasn’t a big hit, because this is a sequel I would have looked forward to.
“Jack Reacher” hits store shelves May 7 and is available for pre-order at Amazon.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC