While not entirely original, Jack Reacher is both a competent mystery movie and an exciting action film. In that order. Not much for blending its components, the first three quarters unfolds in an intriguing and serpentine manner, while the last portion focuses rather exclusively on explosive adventure. The whodunit gets left in the dust; but it’s still an effective journey regardless of the unceremonious juxtaposition of genres, primarily thanks to leads Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike. Many of the characters in the film fall squarely in the category of generic, but Cruise and Pike push past their less polished support (like the “crotchety old man with a heart of gold” and “disfigured evil villain” roles that expectedly pop up) to create worthwhile heroes that deliver a surprising amount of witty banter and clever deducing of miniscule signs.
After a considerable amount of evidence finds former military sniper James Mark Barr (Joseph Sikora) the prime suspect in a brutal killing spree of five innocent victims, he asks the district attorney to find the mysterious Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) to help prove his innocence. Instead, the elusive investigator arrives to make sure Barr pays for his crimes. When defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) implores Reacher to examine the evidence more closely, the two begin uncovering a massive conspiracy and a trail of bodies leading to the real culprits. As they dig deeper, Helen and Jack become the targets of a dangerous gang of criminals who will stop at nothing to keep the truth from surfacing.
It starts with a particularly scary opening sequence, which in light of current events, along with editing and sound effects that bespeak frighteningly realistic atrocities, seems staggeringly morbid. Shortly thereafter, “Jack Reacher” is all about fun. Light-hearted adventure (thanks to an invincible hero), flirty repartee, and plenty of action movie clichés (not excluding crooked cops, an impressively unidealistic car chase, and nasty villains itching to be offed) are jam-packed into a smartly paced puzzlement that quickly devolves into a sensationally caricatural revenge fantasy. While it’s not a thinker, it certainly is nonstop guilty pleasure entertainment.
A vestige of creativity pokes through the occasional framing of poses and consternated expressions by a sharply focused camera, the ampleness of circumstantial evidence to fuel a conspiracy theory, and the “trust no one” theme of lone wolf substantiating. This is witnessed chiefly in the dialogue-free apprehension of the suspect (directly after the opening scene) and in the repetitive way Reacher is shown to be a formidable opponent to all things injurious. A few scenes are dedicated entirely to demonstrating just how seasoned he is at fighting crime (or to show his tangible machismo) – and later, a few more similar moments are thrown in just to reaffirm that notion. Each time this is done, the film becomes more enjoyable, right along with a role catered specifically for Cruise.
He’s an undeniably likeable protagonist, even when he does morally ambiguous things. Calm, collected, smug, confident, lucky, smarter than the cops, and always calculating, this new Ethan Hunt-like character is even better than the “Mission: Impossible” daredevil Cruise has been embodying over the course of fifteen years; he’s minutely more believable and his humorous quips are continually amusing. Nearly every exchange of dialogue (and combat stunt) is honeycombed with comedic verbiage or executed with an unmistakable wink, even when (perhaps especially so) it’s an icy threat to antagonists. Once again, Tom Cruise has crafted a charismatic character audiences won’t be able to get enough of.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)