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Jack Reacher
Genre Thriller

Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher, in the adaptation of One Shot, a novel by Lee Child, in which ex-military hero, Jack Reacher, becomes the lead investigator in a multiple shooting homicide after the prime suspect of an "open and shut" case calls for the drifter by name.

Tom Cruise has played Ethan Hunt several times in Mission Impossible, had a convincing turn as a contract killer in Collateral and has a history of strong performances in military dramas, A Few Good Men and Born on the Fourth of July. Yet, no acting experience can make you almost a foot taller and 20kg heavier overnight.

These physical attributes are something that the character of Jack Reacher is renowned for, an aspect that is re-iterated in the books, making the ex-military drifter an intelligent brute and a force to be reckoned with. We can believe that Tom Cruise has the know-how, the street smarts and the skills, but no matter how good his tough guy performance is... the call of the day was dynamite, in a big package.

This casting call may jar for fans of the series, but for the uninitiated, it's easier to look past appearances. Cruise has the hard-as-nails determination, the wisecracks and the calm like a bomb intensity of Jack Reacher. It's these traits that audiences latch onto, allowing the tough investigator to get all Dirty Harry with the old school gab, the guns and the car chases.

Based on the treatment of the film, it's actually surprising to learn that the Jack Reacher series only began in 1997. Christopher McQuarrie, best known as a screenwriter for The Usual Suspects, writes and directs Jack Reacher with a old style swagger. At just over two hours, it's a slow-boiling mystery drama that maintains its loping stride, while breaking into car chases and shoot outs with Jack Reacher out-muscling the odd thug along the way.

In many ways Jack Reacher is similar to Mel Gibson's so-called comeback vehicle, Edge of Darkness. They both feature '80s icons, intense nothing-to-lose tough guy characters, both are charged with a personal mission under mysterious circumstances. Fortunately, Jack Reacher manages to keep a noose on all its subplots without running wild in the third act. This is mostly thanks to Tom Cruise, who manages to reel the audience in with witty smarts and explosive action, keeping us invested in the story as new revelations rekindle the mystery.

He's supported by the beautiful Rosamund Pike as Helen, a blonde ivory tower of coolness and a classic leading lady, whose professional involvement and personal dynamic is similar to that of Demi Moore opposite Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Richard Jenkins adds more clout to the ensemble as Helen's father and David Oyelowo has his moments as Emerson.

However, it's Werner Herzog's dead-eyed prisoner-of-war villain, who is most captivating. The director showcases his acting ability, channeling some history from Rescue Dawn and delivering an ominous, foreboding villain. An equally admirable turn from Robert Duvall keeps the film grounded, tempering the one man show and adding some weathered grit.

Jack Reacher is a little inconsistent, playing like a crime drama TV series only to cross-over into the film territory of Charles Bronson. This is only Christopher McQuarrie's second directing credit after The Way of the Gun, and he must have taken over the high chair after being called in for a script rewrite. Thankfully, his solid writing and Tom Cruise's presence do enough to smooth over the jagged edges.

All in all, Jack Reacher has the entertainment value, the collective talent and the wits to muster a better-than-average crime drama thriller. The old school take on tough guy action is refreshing, Christopher McQuarrie gives the script crackle and Lee Child's story provides enough substance to warrant the two hour run time. Tom Cruise may have been a sixth choice Jack Reacher, but owns the performance nevertheless.

The bottom line: Entertaining

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