By Patrick B. McGuigan
Tom Cruise brings to life the title character is “Jack Reacher” — a new film for which he is also a primary backer. He plays a former military cop who has been living largely “off the grid” but comes out of hiding when the prime suspect in a murderous rampage – a sharpshooter not long removed from service in Iraq – refuses to answer questions from investigators until he talks to Reacher.
Rosamund Pike is Helen Rodin, an idealistic criminal defense lawyer who takes on the case convinced of her client’s guilt but motivated by opposition to capital punishment and hoping to keep the marksman out of the electric chair. Richard Jenkins portrays her father – the District Attorney charged with seeking conviction of the shooter.
Robert Duvall is superb in an important role toward the film’s end. Without spoiling the plot line, his role involves weaponry, past military service and a willingness to take risks to see justice done.
David Oyelowo is Emerson, the lead investigator into the slaughter that opens the film. Alexia Fast is appealing in the part of ill-fated Sandy, who Reacher tries to protect.
The main bad guy, a Russian thug-mobster known as “the Zek” (prisoner) for the decades he spent in Siberian camps, is Werner Herzog. While perhaps the most comic-book like of the film’s characters, Herzog brings believable menace to the part as a man willing to do anything to survive and to become more powerful.
Jay Courtney plays a killer who works for the Zek, and who is headed toward a confrontation with Reacher.
Director (and screenwriter) Christopher McQuarrie delivers ably in bringing Lee Child’s best-selling novel to the screen.
The story has several twists and turns and more depth than might be expected from the material – that’s not an insult to the novel, it’s a compliment to the quality of the production.
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and it richly deserves its PG-13 rating (I would have given it an R). Still, it is action-packed and well-crafted.
The relationship between Rodin and Reacher develops carefully and even respectfully, with a clear attraction among the characters not leading to sexual consummation.
The story leaves room for a sequel or two, and there are worse things that could happen in Tinseltown. “Jack Reacher” is a good crime thriller.