Cruise plays a killer role

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

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.

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