Writer and director Christopher McQuarrie follows up the seldom-seen The Way of The Gun with Jack Reacher, an adaptation of author Lee Child’s successful crime series. In the film, which is predominantly based on the ninth novel One Shot, Reacher finds himself embroiled in a murder case when the supposed killer of five innocent victims, trained sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora), is apprehended in police custody.
When probed about his involvement in what appears to be an open-and-shut case, Barr simply requests the presence of rogue ex-army investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise). Soon after his arrival, Reacher strikes a deal with Barr’s defence lawyer Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) to affirm Barr’s guilt. However, as Reacher digs around, it soon becomes clear that the case may not be as straightforward as they’d initially anticipated.
Jack Reacher is something of an oddity. More of a slow-burning procedural than a full blown thriller, McQuarrie’s film adopts many of the traits traditionally used in 1960/70’s crime dramas. It immediately hooks the audience’s attention with an unsettling, tense and meticulous pre-credits opening sequence that establishes the mood – dark and mercurial – in a succinct, yet nonetheless shocking manner.
From here, McQuarrie’s script tracks Reacher as he picks apart the case at a pace that’s believable, if uneven and unnecessarily drawn-out. It’s an approach that, while occasionally frustrating in its tedium and lacking in those full-scale, edge-of-your-seat action sequences that those unfamiliar with Child’s source material may expect, feels entirely in keeping with Reacher’s solitary, enigmatic persona: laid-back and derivative.
It’s welcome, then, that there’s a tongue-in-cheek, ridiculous edge to the whole film – one that more or less helps to divert attention away from the narratives problems and onto other things, whether it be Helen’s hefty cleavage (Pike is wickedly shortchanged in the costume department), Reacher’s pecs or the fact Werner Herzog plays a Russian ringleader with an artificial eye somehow linked to the sniper’s attack.
Cruise, too, is responsible for much of the film’s success. Picked for the role by himself (he also acts as producer), he embodies the character’s solitary, ruffian persona effortlessly, and the way he slick way in which he relates McQuarrie’s dialogue highlights the mutual respect shared between the two. Elsewhere, Pike does well with what she’s given to do (her facial expressions are spot-on) and Herzog is, well, Herzog to a tee.
And that’s what makes Jack Reacher such an oddity of a film. On paper, it sounds terrible. But when McQuarrie’s superior and well-measured direction allows for a film with such a sarcastic, B-movie sensibility and top-notch Cruise performance to form, that doesn’t matter. It’s doubtful that it will be remembered so fondly in years to come (unless it’s because of their nonsensical decision to waste Richard Jenkins), but it’s fun while it lasts. And that’s fine.