3.5 stars. Rated PG-13, for dramatic intensity, plenty of action violence, and brief profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.21.16
All right; he’s growing on me.
Lee Child’s fans know darn well that — as a physical specimen — Tom Cruise couldn’t be further removed from the author’s depiction of honorable loner Jack Reacher. (Cruise: 5-feet-7, 148 pounds; Reacher: 6-feet-5, 210-250 pounds, with a 50-inch chest.)
|Having learned that Samantha — a girl who might (or might not) be his daughter — is in|
danger, Reacher (Tom Cruise) and Turner (Cobie Smulders) rush to her home ... only
to find signs of violence, and no trace of the teenager.
In Child’s novel Never Go Back — on which this film is loosely based — Reacher is said to have “a six-pack like a cobbled city street, a chest like a suit of NFL armor, biceps like basketballs, and subcutaneous fat like a Kleenex tissue.”
Sounds more like The Incredible Hulk, right? On his best day, it would take three Tom Cruises to make one Jack Reacher.
That said, I’ve gotta give Cruise credit (even if that seems superfluous, since his name pretentiously appears three times in the title credits, before the movie even starts). He’s an impressively fit 54-year-old, and he handles this film’s action scenes and stunt work with reasonable élan. And he’s still a dynamic sprinter, which he demonstrates a few times here.
(Tom Cruise action movies always have running scenes. He obviously believes he looks good doing them.)
All right, all right; enough joshing. Cruise’s second outing as Reacher is more satisfying than its 2012 predecessor, thanks to engaging supporting characters who do much to humanize the narrative. The primary plot is supplemented by a solid secondary mystery, and Cruise has softened the at-times laughably stoic manner he gave Reacher the first time.
I credit director/co-scripter Edward Zwick, who has a history of blending action epics with compelling character development, in films such as Glory, Blood Diamond and Defiance. Zwick and Cruise also worked together on The Last Samurai.
They chose this film’s source material wisely. Cruise’s first Reacher film was based on Child’s ninth novel, One Shot, a rather grim affair that did little but drip with testosterone, and frequently emphasized the many ways that Cruise didn’t look or sound like Reacher. This new film is adapted from Child’s 18th book — Zwick sharing scripting credit with Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz — which is a much shrewder choice, with better mainstream audience appeal.
Zwick opens with a prologue of sorts, which allows Cruise to display the calm assurance with which he greets all perilous or life-threatening situations. It also establishes his connection to Maj. Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who has inherited his desk at the headquarters of his former unit, the 110th MP in northeastern Virginia. Zwick deftly establishes that the two have been trading intel and phone calls for awhile, but have yet to meet.
(In Child’s series, this long-distance relationship begins with the 14th book, 61 Hours.)