On-form Cruise lacks direction
Despite concerns over Tom Cruise’s suitability for the role from fans of Lee Childs’ novels, his turn as former army major-turned-investigator Jack Reacher back in 2012 was one of his finest in recent years.
Like a less smiley and adventure-seeking Ethan Hunt, Reacher saw Cruise furrow his brow and join the likes of Matt Damon and Daniel Craig in the serious, a**-kicking action heroes brigade.
For this second go-around, we jump ahead to the 18th book in the Reacher series and find the leading man on the run as a fugitive after he gets caught up in a major government conspiracy.
Cruise’s Last Samurai director Edward Zwick replaces Christopher McQuarrie in the director’s chair this time around – and joins writers Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz in adapting Childs’ novel.
Losing The Usual Suspects’ scribe McQuarrie is a blow to the sequel as it misses his flair for hard-boiled action, flawed and grounded protagonists and bold casting decisions – none of the dark forces on show can rival Werner Herzog’s creepy performance in the first flick.
Zwick, in general, directs in simplistic fashion and while the lack of pomp and circumstance may be more in keeping with the Reacher found in the books, it doesn’t always result in an exciting cinematic experience.
But no matter the quality of the work going on around him behind the camera, you can always rely on Cruise to throw everything into each and every part he plays.
Reacher may not cling to airplanes, cliffs and the world’s tallest building like Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt, but Cruise still embodies the hero with inner steel, physical toughness and vulnerability.
The latter comes most to the fore during scenes with impressive teenager Danish Yarosh (Samantha), who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter.
Cobie Smulders (Turner) expands her Avengers role with another strong female out to prove she can hang tough with her male counterparts.
There’s no getting away from the Herzogsized hole in effective villainy, though, with only Patrick Heusinger’s (Frances Ha) mustachioed assassin The Hunter making any impression on the bad side of the fence.
Fortunately the storyline stakes remain high throughout and the writing trio squeeze as much tension out of Childs’ story as possible.
You’re kept guessing as to where it’s all going to end up right until the climax and in among the fisticuffs and mysterysolving, we’re treated to moments of humour – not least the odd family dynamic between Jack, Turner and Samantha.
However, while the title never acts as an appropriate self-fulfilling prophecy, if there is more cinematic Reacher to come then more visionary directors could be the way to go – what’s Christopher McQuarrie up to?
Behind the wheel Cruise prepares for action as Reacher