Cruise puts his own stamp on iconic anti-hero

Jack Reacher (M)

DISCUSSIONS surrounding Tom Cruise's appointment to the latest Hollywood franchise hope got fans of Lee Child's novels riled up, much like those who nitpicked at details in the Harry Potter or Twilight films.

Such is the devotion of these fans that boycotts were publicly voiced in the United States, for the most part based on his inclusion.

It's not the couch-jumping or general demeanour that's to blame, but his stature. For those wanting to imagine the Jack Reacher as portrayed in the books (at six feet, five inches and 10 or so years younger), it's not going to happen. Which is a pity because Cruise, while short and too serious for some, holds his ground as a man desperate for nothing and wanting for justice.

He comes to the aid of Pittsburgh lawyer Helen (Rosamund Pike) when James Barr (Joseph Sikora) is taken into custody for the murder of five random civilians. But Reacher is a man unsatisfied with what is presented to him by district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) and detective Emerson (David Oyelowo).

Reacher isn't a hero by any means. He calls himself a drifter with nothing to lose; a wanderer doing only what's right, a living ghost.

It's a frustration for those around him but intriguing for us watching as he takes matters into his own hands and refuses to play to textbook scenes.

There is plenty formulaic about the film though; the story, based on Child's novel One Shot and adapted by director Christopher McQuarrie, runs very much as a whodunnit. Twists and turns unveil more to the story, plots coming together to form the one result.

The criminal feel works for McQuarrie but also leaves wanting as we watch a character we don't get to know - his ghostly nature leaves no entrance to his motivation or reasonings.

Perhaps that's to come should we receive more of his stories on the big screen; something Cruise no doubt wants having future rights to Reacher films.

Cruise injects his self-assurance into the former army cop, with a hint of swagger as he does his best not to ruin his good leather jacket. Pike, too, is a strong-willed Helen, although the lawyer is not susceptible to Reacher's rugged charm.

There's a hint of Bond in there, but for his type of girls or flirtatious banter look elsewhere.

German director Werner Herzog and Australian Jai Courtney are an interesting duo to bring a touch of frost to Reacher's investigations, a pair young and old surviving their way through the world with dishonesty and callousness.

The reason behind their wrongdoings is merely skirted in an effort to make the story light.

Many action-based films have stories laden with complex plots and dangerous encounters, but Child's material focuses heavily on the man at the centre of the show.

It seems funny that we don't know much about Reacher even with that focus.

So from not much heavy subtext comes a film that holds the hope of a new franchise and new legions of fans. Its strength lies in Reacher's basic ability to hold a situation for as long as it suits him.

And many of us wish it would come that easy.

Rating: 3.5/5

Now screening at Reading Cinemas

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