Jack Reacher is written to be quite the physical giant, so when Tom Cruise got interested in the character, many would not have fathomed that Cruise himself would take the role, although I felt it was probably one of the best ways to get author Lee Child's famous investigator onto the big screen by none other than one of the biggest stars Tinseltown has to offer. Written for the screen and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Jack Reacher the film, based upon Child's book One Shot, is a solid investigative drama dealing with a sensitive issue of today with a sniper's seemingly random shooting, and you should know better than to trust the marketers on their treatment of this film.
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With Drop The Lime's State Trooper track pulsating with the Camaro's engine roar, together with plenty of fisticuffs as thrown by Cruise's Reacher, one will be forgiven to think that this is an action film thanks to the trailer. Granted there are action set pieces, they are not the showcase of the movie. Instead it's quite old school in its treatment, dead serious yet punctuated with moments of wry wit, backed with a genuine whodunnit mystery. Like Cruise's other films in A Few Good Men and even The Firm, his protagonist must uncover the mystery to why he's being called by the accused, Barr (Joseph Sikora), whom everyone automatically thought he was a friend, and to carefully navigate through murky waters with yet to be revealed villains adamant in sending him back to the shadows where he came from, or to frame him up so that he's out of commission.
But the best in the business aren't known as the best for nothing. Reluctantly hired by Barr's defence attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike) to become her investigator, we follow Jack Reacher as he conducts the ABCs of investigations - assuming nothing, believe nobody, and checking everything. No stone got left unturned as McQuarrie's screenplay gets you hook, line and sinker, drawn deep into trying to unravel the Why and the Who involved in this relatively complex piece of intrigue, and how it's pure bad luck that the antagonists have to grapple with Reacher's unique skillset, which almost bordered on a parody of Taken when he gets in conversation with the bad guys.
Reacher's modus operandi, and investigative skills and techniques would be what will draw the crowds hungry for this genre of film. It's an investigative drama through and through, with hypotheses and theories readily thrown up for deeper examination, which some may be quick to dismiss as convenience, but it's antagonist screw-up mostly. These naturally introduce us to the supporting cast who aid, or get in the way, of Reacher's investigations, and allows for the appearance of Robert Duvall, whose charisma in a bit role just chews up the scenery. It's the story here that's engaging, because there's zilch development character wise, where we don't get to see how Reacher develops into the tough guy he is, nor be bothered too much with it. Most times Tom Cruise just continued being Tom Cruise, which is inevitable because little is done to try and get him behind the Jack Reacher persona, but we're not complaining.
For those who find investigative dramas a little bit dry, there's no lack of action sequences that mattered, with a few that stood out, such as the very first time we see Reacher take on five thugs, in Spider-Man-ish style complete with very dark and wisecracks, before putting his military training and background to good use. It's no nonsense, and frankly quite methodical in his choice of martial arts, going for the jugular, or to inflict massive pain to demoralize opponents, than to waste time horsing around. Then of course there's the finale which mixed things up a lot to offer action fans a buffet of experiences, combining sniper with melee, firearms and martial arts, with some self-deprecating down-out-of-luck moments.
Despite having Rosamund Pike as the female lead, there's little romance thrown up in the story, unlike most other Hollywood films of such nature. Pike's presence as Helen the attorney felt nothing more than a little plot necessity in having to reach into Jack Reacher's thought process, and allow him someone with whom he can debate and bounce ideas off, versus having to talk to himself, or worse, for a movie, talk to nobody, or having a narration throughout. It's a pity her character served as pretty much the mouthpiece of the conspiracy, helping audiences piece stuff together in quite verbose terms when the need calls for it.