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Billy Summers: Cruise gets it right in 'Jack Reacher'

Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:16 AM

In “Jack Reacher,” Director Christopher McQuarrie (”The Way of the Gun”) takes on one of those Herculean tasks that could take a lifetime to complete. Author Lee Child has penned 17 “Reacher” novels, which will undoubtedly make for a great series of films, should this first one become a hit.

And, I think Tom Cruise will see to that. In this first film (based on the ninth novel), Cruise introduces us to a really cool hero, dressed in a small package. Just like Bruce Willis, Cruise does not let his small size seem all that great of a disadvantage, as he kicks butt from one side of town to the other.

In “Jack Reacher,” the protagonist takes on five guys in a bar fight without working up a sweat.  The Reacher of booklore is almost 6-and-a-half feet tall, while Tom Cruise is — well, not. Cruise is definitely very physically fit, and is frequently running around without a shirt, nearly always in the presence of a beautiful woman.

The best thing about Cruise in “Reacher” is that he doesn’t play “Tom Cruise.” Like Brad Pitt, Sly Stallone and other stars before him, he has a tough time hiding his monster star power, and in this movie he is still a tremendously confident individual.

But, he left that “Top Gun” arrogance at the door. The movie was made all the better for it. After his previous effort as an aging rock star earlier this year in “Rock of Ages” (which lasted about a day and a half in those multiplexes that were unfortunate enough to gamble on it), he has cause to be a little less arrogant, anyway.

As the mysterious ex-Army investigator, Cruise gets involved in the mystery that is akin to many other plots that action movies spring out of, but Cruises’ presence gives this plot credibility and pizazz.

McQuarrie also paces it very well, and keeps the mystery so tightly contained that it is twice as much fun as it should be. If more “Reacher” books make it to the big screen, it would be a waste to make them with McQuarrie at the helm. He seems to “get” Reacher.

The eye candy in this movie is the beautiful Rosamund Pike (”Die Another Day,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Promised Land”) as Helen, defense lawyer. I left the theater praising the powers that be for casting the ordinary-sized blonde for the part, instead of a size 2, but then read that she had just given birth before the movie began filming, so she may be a back down to her Bond Girl figure by now.

Either way, she was great as a sexy sounding board for the hero to explain certain points to the “fourth wall” (audience) through, and toward the end, playing the “Oh, Dudley!” Perils of Pauline role that is almost MANdatory in a testosterone production such as this.

She has a tremendous ability to overact, in a way that makes all of the others in the room look legit. Her perpetually heaving chest in some scenes was almost cartoon-like, demanding a mustachioed villain ready to tie her to the railroad track.  

And what a villain we have. Actually two. The Big Boss is actually veteran director/writer/producer Werner Herzog (“Nosferatu the Vampyre,” “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” “Invincible”), who plays a Communist Block crime boss, in an evil that would make a great Bond Villain.

His henchman, is played by Jai Courtney (“Spartacus,” “Stone Bros.”) a great looking newcomer, who will probably be a heart throb hero in a couple of years. But, in this movie, he is a stone-cold killer, comfortable in his deadly skin. He is the opposite of the hero, although they both exhibit most of the same character flaws, and mannerisms, a common plot ploy in Good Guy/Bad Guy films.

On the second tier, veteran actor Richard Jenkins (”Killing Them Softly,” “Six Feet Under,” “Cabin in the Woods”) plays District Attorney Rodin, in his traditional three-piece-suit persona.

Another veteran star, Robert Duvall ( “Lonesome Dove,” “Godfather” movies, “Falling Down”) plays an extension of his character in “Secondhand Lions,” a sort of ex-Jarhead Hub. If you look in the dictionary under cantankerous, you would find a picture of this character.

I guess it’s one of those roles that that actor has fun playing, while still keeping him in the game. Duvall shouldn’t be ashamed of taking this role, nor should he be all that proud.

David Oyelowo ( “The Help,” “The Last King of Scotland”) plays a police detective, and does well in a role that is not “fleshed out” as much as it could have been.

But, I can’t criticize McQuarrie all that much, as he takes what could have been an ordinary action/mystery novel, and made it his own, possibly a franchise that can be milked until the not as young as he used to be Cruise is ready to retire on his laurels.

I am anxiously awaiting “Reacher II,” should it be in the works…

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.

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