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Review: Uneven 'Jack Reacher' offers nothing new

By Mark Greczmiel, Contributing writer
Published On: Dec 21 2012 11:09:25 AM CST
Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher

Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise's recent track record at the box office has been all over the map. Of course, there have been such hits as "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." But the star as also endured a few misses ("Rock of Ages") as well as some underperformers, such as "Valkyrie." But one thing about Cruise has remained constant: he always surrounds himself with first rate talent.

His latest film -- "Jack Reacher" -- is no different. Based on the hit crime novels by British author Jim Grant, (writing under the name "Lee Child") the movie was both written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter of "The Usual Suspects." The cast includes veterans like Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins. On paper, at least, the movie has a lot of going for it.

The story begins with a chilling scene of a sniper slowly picking out targets on a Pittsburgh walkway through his rifle scope. But the image of a child in the cross-hairs is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, especially in light of recent events in Connecticut.

After the carnage, the arrested suspect requests a former Army investigator to look into the case. Enter Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, a guy who "lives off the grid" and is fond of saying things like, "I'm just a guy who wants to be left alone." After some prodding from the suspect's beautiful attorney (Rosamund Pike from "Die Another Day") Jack starts delving into the case and, surprise, surprise, discovers that things really aren't what they seem. He uncovers a big conspiracy involving lots of major-league bad guys.

Cruise moves through the movie adequately enough, but there are too many moments that seem tired and forced. Scenes showing much younger women giving the 50-year-old actor breathless, admiring looks as he passes are difficult to believe. And does he really need to take his shirt off in every movie at this point in his career?

The film does contain some good action scenes, including a car chase through a downtown that has some incredible visuals. The camera is often moving at high speeds just inches from the cars, creating a sense of, "How did they do that?"

A big addition to the movie comes late with the introduction of Robert Duvall as a retired U.S. Marine who owns a gun range. Cruise and the veteran actor have real chemistry together and Duvall has the skill to make some of the frequently awkward dialogue sound witty and believable. That's not the case with actor/director Werner Herzog, who plays the head of a crime gang. There were giggles from the audience when he grimly recites such lines as, "We take what can be taken. This is what we do."

The other actors giving varying performances. David Oyelowo ("Red Tails") is very good as the lead detective on the sniper case and a good foil for Cruise. Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") is also an excellent actor but his D.A. character isn't given much to do other than keep the audience guessing about possible plot twists. As for Rosamund Pike, she responds to every bit of shocking information by going bug-eyed in order to telegraph her character's surprise.

The main problem with "Jack Reacher" is that it's just an uneven movie. Quite a few of the plot points don't make much sense, and some of the scenes go off in bizarre directions. (Including a bathroom fight that inexplicitly veers off into "Three Stooges" slapstick territory before finishing off with a brutal but original climax.)

"Jack Reacher" isn't bad, it's just that it's been done before and done better.