JACK REACHER  (director/writer: Christopher McQuarrie; screenwriter: from the novel One Shot by Lee Child; cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel; editors: Steven M. Rickert Jr./ Kevin Stitt; music: Joe Kraemer; cast: Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher), Rosamund Pike (Helen), Richard Jenkins (Rodin), Jai Courtney (Charlie), Robert Duvall (Cash), Werner Herzog (The Zec), Michael Raymond-James (Linsky), James Martin Kelly (Rob Farrior), David Oyelowo (Emerson), Joseph Sikora (James Barr), Alexia Fast (Sandy); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tom Cruise/Don Granger, Paula Wagner/Gary Levinsohn; Paramount Pictures; 2012)

"Played with blowhard sociopath gusto by the diminutive, five-foot-seven, Tom Cruise, who tries to prove size doesn't matter."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Christopher McQuarrie ("The Way of the Gun") bases this slick action thriller on the English author Lee Child's novel One Shot. Child is the pseudonym for British author Jim Grant, who started writing the Reacher novels in 1997 and there are now 17, with this adapted book being the first to be made into a movie and is the ninth in the Reacher series. His low-tech, old-school Jack Reacher protagonist is a mysterious bus riding drifter, who is a six-foot-five and 250-pound brutish ex-military cop with a chip on his shoulder against the law establishment and an expert on weapons and in hand-to-hand combat. Reacher is played with blowhard sociopath gusto by the diminutive, five-foot-seven, Tom Cruise, who tries to prove size doesn't matter. The disposable pulp-fiction pic offers mindless escapist entertainment, that loads up on cartoonish violence, banal dialogue, awkward valentines to the gun culture and an increasingly twisty story that becomes increasingly less credible the more it's revealed. But if you are alright with the genre as male fantasy Bond-like entertainment and can accept its one-dimensional characters and other faults, and you view Tom Cruise positively as nailing the unromantic Jack Reacher character then I can see why you liked it. For me, Tom Cruise is a no fun guy acting all serious and narcissistic in a role that calls for a more believable physical kind of action hero and one whose actions aren't so risible. I just can't get into Cruise as a ruthless fighting machine, who takes no prisoners, without derisively cracking up. Its few charming moments are cameos by the great German director Werner Herzog as the snarling, foreign accented main heavy and, the always entertaining, Robert Duvall as Reacher's jolly, joke-cracking ex-marine gun-range owner back-up support who is battling his failing eyesight in the big showdown battle scene.

When former Iraqi War army sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora) is arrested in a Pittsburgh municipal garage for killing five supposedly random chosen victims strolling in a nearby riverfront park promenade outside the Pirates' baseball stadium, the simple murder case becomes cloudy when the arrested shooter requests the help of the former army investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) who arrested him previously as a sniper and hates his guts because the guilty guy got free on legal technicalities.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Det. Emerson (David Oyelowo) quickly arrested the suspect by getting his fingerprints from a quarter the sniper put in the parking meter at the crime scene and the no-nonsense law-and-order D.A. Rodin (Richard Jenkins), who always wins, is ready to give the suspect a chance to confess and get life instead of being executed by the needle. The DA's lawyer daughter, Helen (Rosamund Pike), a liberal, believes her dad in his zealous ambition to get murder convictions has previously convicted innocent men, and thereby decides to defend such an unpopular defendant at a risk to her career to make sure he gets a fair trial. Helen tussles her blond hair and shows some boobs, and convinces Reacher, who has been off the grid the last two years after quitting the army, to be her unpaid private investigator even though he believes the suspect is guilty but wonders why he was not protected by the police in their custody and is now hospitalized in a coma after an attack. Reacher uses both his brawn and sleuthing ability and, to his surprise, soon suggests it was not a random act but that one of the victims was targeted and that Barr was not the shooter but framed. After Reacher is attacked by the guilty-party's hired underling gang, a string of brutal murders and wild car chases, the trail leads to the foreign sadistic master criminal known as the Zec (Werner Herzog). It turns out the target was a construction owner refusing to sell out to a shady international concrete company and the senseless killings were used as a coverup.

The only tension aroused is that Reacher believes either Helen's father or Detective Emerson works for the bad guys and has targeted him and possibly Helen for execution.

There's nothing fresh or particularly exciting about this derivative thriller, but its harmless fun as just another wild-eyed implausible Hollywood action film that tries to be entertaining at any cost.

REVIEWED ON 12/22/2012       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"