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Sometimes size really doesn’t matter!

Ex-military investigator is called into a case involving a former Army sniper who shot five victims at random.

Tom Cruise may only stand 5 ft.7 – and be 50 years old, to boot – but he plays a great 6ft.5 Jack Reacher – all 250 pounds of him – bad-ass, anti-authoritarian, ex-military cop and hero of 17 Lee Child’s novels to date. I’ve read most of them and never really found the character of Reacher believable. That is until I saw Cruise’s portrayal. That’s acting for you.

Although British novelist Jim Grant, aka Lee Child, never actually penned a book called JACK REACHER, the plot for this adaptation is from his ninth Reacher novel, ONE SHOT (2005), which is a stand-alone story, requiring no former knowledge of the character or his background. 

The film opens in Pittsburgh, where five people are picked off by a remote sniper firing randomly into a crowd. Five victims killed with only six bullets leads police to assume the homicides to be the work of a superior marksman. And the only traceable sharp-shooter in the area is former Army sniper James Barr (Joseph Sikora), who is soon arrested. Refusing to talk, he merely asks for a piece of paper and writes three words: “Get Jack Reacher”.

Leading detective (David Oyelowo) and D.A. (Richard Jenkins) are puzzling over Barr’s reasoning, at the same time wondering who and how to reach this “Reacher”. Since leaving the Army, there has been no trace of the man: no address, social security number, bank account, credit card, phone number, vehicle license, nada. Virtually off the grid. Enter: Jack Reacher himself, who strolls into the DA’s office at that precise moment, cool as you please.

Strange that Barr should specifically ask for a man who despises him, as we discover, but Jack Reacher, too is mystified and, although personally convinced of Barr’s guilt, he agrees to help his idealistic defense counsel (Rosamund Pike). While reconstructing the crime during the course of his investigation, he begins having his doubts. Were the shootings as random as they appeared – or was there actually a definite target?

When he is then set up by an underage Lolita (Alexia Fast) in a bar and lured outside to be set upon by five thugs, the plot thickens. Paid $100 a head to kick the crap out of him, Reacher just shrugs wryly and wipes the floor with them: smoothly, believably. A terrific fight sequence and Cruise convincingly kicks ass.

Director Christopher McQuarrie, (who penned the classic THE USUAL SUSPECTS and adapted Child’s novel), paints a dark picture of the Pittsburgh underworld, but gives it some light and humorous touches, introducing us to some quirky characters along the way, as well as some surprise cameos. Noteworthy is iconic German filmmaker Werner Herzog playing the creepy Russian villain called Zec, the ultimate survivor, who chewed off his own fingers in a Siberian Gulag. Robert Duvall makes a brief, but welcome appearance in the final act to lighten the mood. Neophytes Jai Courtney and Alexia Fast likewise put in strong performances, as does Rosmaund Pike playing Barr’s attorney, with some sizzling chemistry in her one-on-one scenes with Cruise.

But when all’s said and done, it’s the Tom Cruise Show and he has it down pat. The sunny smile has been replaced by a glowering attitude that makes JACK REACHER a dark and impressive new anti-hero. And to my delight, he even took his shirt off!

JACK REACHER (USA 2012); Distributor: Parmount Pictures; Running time: 130 min; Director/Writer: Christopher McQuarrie; Writer (novel ONE SHOT): Lee Child; Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Joseph Sikora, Alexia Fast, Jai Courtney; Release dates: USA: Dec.21, 2012/Germany: Jan. 3, 2013

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