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Jack Reacher (Paramount, PG-13)

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film jack-reacher_75I found Jack Reacher so surprisingly good—and Cruise so surprisingly good in it—that as the final credits began to roll I immediately wanted to see more.

 

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We might be entering another golden age of Tom Cruise movies. After years of forgettable films (Lions for Lambs, anyone?) and personal antics that left many folks cold, he seems to be on a roll again. Speaking as someone who never saw a Cruise movie just because he was in it, I can say that I found Jack Reacher so surprisingly good—and him so surprisingly good in it—that as the final credits began to roll I immediately wanted to see more.

Reacher (Cruise) is an ex-military investigator who went off the grid years ago. He’s peacefully living off his pension in thrift store clothes and whatever motel room he’s closest to when something on the news piques his interest. A well-trained sniper has killed five people in a Pittsburgh park, and Reacher heads in to see if the evidence on the suspect checks out.

After getting the details from the detective, Emerson (David Oyelowo), the suspect’s lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), asks Reacher to keep looking. And, since some of the proof feels off to him, he agrees. It isn’t long before Reacher irritates a host of underworld baddies and the cops in his quest for the truth.

Jack Reacher has a lot going for it, none the least of which is a series of terrific action sequences that frequently manage to be fun, exciting, and terrifying. When Reacher runs afoul of some minor thugs while investigating a disappearance related to the case, we get one of the most slap-sticky fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie as serious as this. The nice part is that it completely works in the film as evidence of how difficult it is to take down someone as skilled as Reacher, even when you’ve got the drop on him.

The movie is also a well-written detective story that offers several moments of true tension from the beginning. One of the first things we see is the sniper’s view through his scope as he scans people in the park, deciding whom to pick off. It’s nerve-wracking. Another pressure-filled moment can be found in a car chase where Reacher tries to evade police as he works to catch the men who have been tailing him around Pittsburgh.

It’s a good testament to the writing that the action never feels more important than the story. We’re in on bits of the mystery from early on, but enough is held back so that the audience is still treated to some true surprises.

All the performances are excellent, but I have to say that this is Cruise’s movie in every way. There’s usually a sort of manic intensity he brings to action films; it’s not unpleasant, but it sometimes comes off as though he’s trying way too hard to convince us he’s a tough guy who means business. Cruise plays Reacher differently. He never feels like a superhero or a showoff, but like a regular guy who’s good at what he does and will only prove it if you make him. More of this managed ferocity might be what Cruise needs to keep his action star status a bit longer. | Adrienne Jones

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