Cruise plays a killer role
TOM Cruise will never be John Wayne or Clint Eastwood – not without shin implants – but anyone who doubts he can be a heartless little bastard needs only speak to Brooke Shields.
Cruise’s Jack Reacher is a loner who doesn’t smile, charm, love the ladies, aim his index fingers to the heavens or sing You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling in bars.
Here he just snarls and kills people. Yes, please, and let’s have more of the same.
Those who loved Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol will turn up again for Jack Reacher, but if they’re paying attention, they’ll be disappointed, because this is pretty much the opposite.
Instead of a ridiculous plot and frantic stunts, writerdirector Christopher McQuarrie’s adaptation of the Lee Child novel One Shot is a terse, methodical procedural with a few snappy one-liners and only two fights, one shootout and one car chase.
The latter is 1970s-style, with a lot of crunching steel and squealing wheels instead of digitally simulated objects hurtling improbably through space.
Reacher is an ex-Army cop who lives completely off the grid. No one knows where he lives, no credit card, no driver’s license. The man doesn’t even tweet.
When a sniper is arrested following the random shooting of four women and a man in Pittsburgh, the suspect has only one request: ‘‘Find Jack Reacher.’’ The last honest wanderer in a landscape of pain.
Too bad no one can ever find him, but, first surprise: When you need him, he finds you. Like the Tooth Fairy.
Turns out the shooter and Jack have a history: In Iraq, Jack tried but failed to put him away for going nuts and shooting four contractors. This time, the case is airtight. Cops even lifted the shooter’s thumbprint off a coin he put in the meter. Jack has one question: What mass murderer pays for parking?
The detective stuff plays out satisfyingly . . . and though some of the one-liners are errant, many are also laser-guided.
In a fight over a lady who propositions lonesome Jack in a bar, he corrects her brother’s misimpression that he called her a whore: ‘‘No one said whore. You inferred hooker. I meant slut.’’
After beating up some dudes, Jack says that if any failed to survive, ‘‘They died of shame. I was being gentle.’’
The topper, though, is a line that could have been written for 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘‘I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot.’’ From a boot! While savouring duh lamentations of duh women, maybe? Thanks to Cruise’s stone face, Jack’s one-liners never read as ingratiating or smarmy, just hostile.
There are a few lazy moments (especially at the end, when they count the most) and some subsidiary figures are on the bland side (like Rosamund Pike as a defence lawyer, Richard Jenkins as her DA father and David Oyelowo as the cop).
But there is expert support from two of the most formidable geezers in movies: Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall. German filmmaker Herzog shows up as a fantastically icy villain who says, ‘‘When the soldier comes, when you see how he dies, it will change you.’’
A scene with his henchmen is so sick, it’s reminiscent of Monty Python’s Doug Piranha – a criminal so scary he made men pull their own heads off.
Duvall is a wily old Marine who owns a shooting range and joins Reacher for the fun of it.
It’s touching beyond measure to see an ex-jarhead and a former soldier putting aside their differences in a display of mutual respect, understanding and shooting bad guys in the face. Who says natural enemies can’t find common ground?
opens today. Jai reaches for the stars, Page 10.
Tom Cruise’s one-man wrecking crew Jack Reacher is pitiless, lethal fun.