Movie review: Cruise oozes low-key charisma in Jack Reacher
Cruise in action: Jack Reacher, based on Lee Child's bestselling novel One Shot, features Tom Cruise in top form as the titular hero.
The idea of watching a movie in which a sniper methodically crafts his own bullets, practises weekly at a gun range, then waits quietly in an empty parking garage before shooting five people dead may not sound like the most appealing form of entertainment during these tragic days.
Nevertheless, it's important to assess Jack Reacher on its own terms, for what it is and what it isn't.
Besides being caught in some unfortunate timing, it's also clever, well-crafted and darkly humorous, and it features one of those effortless bad-ass performances from Tom Cruise that remind us that he is indeed a movie star, first and foremost.
OK, so maybe Cruise doesn't exactly resemble the Reacher of British novelist Lee Child'sbooks: a six-foot-five (1.95m), 250-pound (113kg), blond behemoth.
If you haven't read them, you probably won't care. Even if you have read them, Christopher McQuarrie's film the first he's directed and written since 2000's The Way of the Gun moves so fluidly and with such confidence, it'll suck you in from the start.
McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning writer of The Usual Suspects, exhibits some Hitchcockian aspirations in Jack Reacher with its sense of foreboding from the very beginning, its twists and double-crosses and the quintessential icy blonde at the centre, in British beauty Rosamund Pike.
Taken from the novel One Shot, Jack Reacher is all that: a former military investigator who's become a bit of a mythical figure since he's gone off the grid.
No address, no credit card trail. This is a guy who uses pay phones - he's that stealthy.
Besides being a mind teaser, Jack Reacher offers the muscular thrills of a '70s action flick, including fight scenes that mercifully aren't over-edited messes and a thrilling, prolonged car chase through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, with the grinding and screeching providing its own rhythmic soundtrack.
Cruise dials down the megawatt charisma and instead relies on a no-nonsense world-weariness which has its own appeal.
Disappointingly, though, Werner Herzogis a bit of a stereotypical villain as a mastermind named The Zec; he's never really fleshed out enough to seem truly frightening, but at least he sounds right for the part.
Even when delivering voiceover about subject matter he's excited about in his own films, like the documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, it's as if he's threatening us with world domination.
Jack Reacher (M) opens in Australian cinemas tomorrow.
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Top form: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher.