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Jack Reacher (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 130 minutes.

OK for children.

Let's get this movie's big weakness out of the way at the outset. I've read most of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. Reacher is a monster of a man, described as 6-5, 245. He's an imposing presence. When he walks into a room, everybody stops and looks.

Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher. He's 5-7 and I don't know how much he weighs, probably not much more than 145 dripping wet. When he walks into a room, nobody looks. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie does lots of Hollywood stuff here to make Cruise look imposing. For instance, his leading lady, Rosamund Pike, is an inch and a half taller at 5-8. In their two shots she's always looking up at Tom, so McQuarrie obviously used the Alan Ladd (5-4) peach box  for Tom to stand on.

When people read Gone With The Wind in the 1930s, everyone pictured Clark Gable and the role of Rhett Butler. In fact Gable was so much the character of Rhett Butler that he was reluctant to take it on because there was so much pressure. When I read the Reacher novels, I pictured a young Tom Selleck or Clint Eastwood in the role. They are obviously too old to play it now, and I can't think of anyone around who could comply with Reacher's physical features.

But movies must stand on their own. And this one does pretty much. For some reason they started with Child's ninth Reacher novel, One Shot. This is unfortunate because Reacher's character was established in the first novel, when he is still in the Army. So when we meet him in this movie he is already a wandering loner without the viewer who has not read the books knowing why.

If you don't already have an impression of what Jack Reacher looks like, Cruise does a passable job of impersonating a tough guy. He's done it before in the Mission Impossible movies. Cruise is a good actor and he carries it off as well as possible.

This is kind of a knockoff of the early James Bond movies with lots of throwaway humorous lines, although it totally lacks the double entendres that made the first three Bond films so memorable.

Outside of the Cruise miscasting, the cast is terrific. Pike does a good job as the defense attorney Reacher helps, wearing low-cut tops with a push-up bra throughout the film, making her look almost Dolly Partonesque. Not that I'm complaining.

There are others in the cast, who add to the quality of the movie. Richard Jenkins plays Pike's father who is also the District Attorney giving his usual fine performance. David Oyelowo plays an assistant district attorney admirably, although he was probably cast in large part because, at 5-8, he's only 1 inch taller than Cruise. Werner Herzog, generally a producer and director, gives a surprisingly good performance as a chilling bad guy. Finally, maybe the highlight of the film, 81-year-old Robert Duvall appears near the end and comes close to stealing the film. He hasn't lost a thing.

This is a fun, slam bang action movie with lots of bad guys for Reacher to conquer all by himself, undoubtedly the first in a series since Child has been prolific. But as good an actor as Cruise is, he is not Jack Reacher. They need to find someone appropriate for the role. Cruise as Reacher is like Mickey Rooney playing Rhett Butler.

December 19, 2012