By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Corny/cheesy dialogue and super-heroic and action clichés really hinder this, nevertheless entertaining, but not completely satisfying, action thriller.  Based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child, the film introduces uninitiated movie audiences to Child’s character Jack Reacher. Reacher, an ex-Army Military Police Major, not only is a sharp and highly intelligent investigator; the man can seriously hold his own in combat, especially of the hand-to-hand variety.  The character and story has the makings of an exciting, albeit familiar, popcorn flick, but unfortunately it is hard to take the film too seriously when it often has some laughable writing and eye-rolling clichés.

When police apprehend an ex-military sniper believed to have killed five innocent people in what seems to be an insane and random act of violence, the suspect, James Barr (Joseph Sikora) refuses to respond to questioning, but drops the name Jack Reacher.  Reacher (Tom Cruise), a man familiar with Barr’s military background arrives to investigate the matter, believing Barr to be guilty.  After speaking with police detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), District Attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins), Barr’s attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike), and some unfriendly characters who would like Reacher to leave town, he reluctantly agrees to assist Helen with her case.  As Reacher digs deeper he begins to uncover the involvement of some serious heavies led by a mysterious man known only as The Zec (Werner Herzog).

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun), the first installment of a possible new movie franchise based on Child’s characters feels like so many other anti-hero/badass hero stories that have preceded it.  Though I am not certain this is the fault of Child’s or McQuarrie’s, as I have never read the book series, this movie introduction left some to be desired.  The movie begs to question, what’s so special about Jack Reacher that he deserves a movie franchise?  The film does have its entertaining and thrilling moments, but it also has its share of silly, stupid and laughable ones.  If Jack Reacher offers audiences something that say Batman, Jason Bourne, James Bond or Jack Ryan doesn’t, then this film does the character a disservice.

As far as Cruise’s portrayal is concerned, he comes across mostly believable, but lacks personality.  He does occasionally garner laughs with his hard-nosed, straight forward and no-nonsense approach, but lacks the charisma that even a killing machine like Jason Bourne has.  Rosamund Pike delivers a descent performance, but the limitations of the writing don’t give her much material to stretch her acting chops.  The same goes for Richard Jenkins, a tremendously talented actor who sadly gets way underused here.  I enjoyed Robert Duvall as ex-Marine Cash who has some very funny lines, but I wished for more screen time with this fun character.  Acclaimed movie director Werner Herzog makes an interesting and unusual choice for the head villain, The Zec.  As an actor he does have an undeniable screen presence and awesome voice, but as his scenes play out, he comes across as a cartoonish Bond villain.  The writing is to blame here and not his acting.

That perfectly describes the main issue I have with the film.  The writing just doesn’t measure up to a lot of other similar stories and films.  Jack Reacher, while an often entertaining and exciting movie, does not break any new ground in terms of filmmaking and storytelling.  I recommend that audiences wait to rent this one and don’t bother spending the money at the cinema.  If the producers decide to do more installments, I really hope that they improve on the story and character development, because the potential for improvement is there.

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