Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

January 9, 2014

'Jack Reacher' (2012) is an engaging, character-lite actioner

By Rob Cox
Daily News

---- — FROM THE DEN AT HOME — “Jack Reacher” is an enjoyable, fast-moving, action romp, with Tom Cruise in the lead, charismatically playing the eponymous title character, a former US Army MP turned do-gooder, vagabond private investigator, and all-around brawler/warrior.

Cruise does a good job here making the most of a character that’s decidedly undercooked. Reacher is hardly the film’s only underdeveloped character, though; that description fits all the characters, and all the actors do solid jobs making the most of relatively little.

The film’s villain is a shadowy figure known only as the “Zec” (Russian for prisoner), a Mafioso-type who heads a group of Russian gangsters, all with military training and experience.

Who is the Zec, I wanted to know. How much time did he spend in prison, and what was his time there like? He seems like an awful, deplorable and deadly-dangerous human being, but we never learn much more about him than the impressions actor Werner Herzog conveys through the script. Make no mistake, though, Werner, who’s far-better known as a documentarian writer and director, does a terrific, understated job breathing life into Zec, portraying the menace and danger without ever raising his voice.

What this film DOES do well (besides its performances), is move – and very quickly. Director and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“Valkyrie”) keeps things so tight and peppy, that answers to questions about character largely get lost in simply wanting to know what will happen next. And although the characters (and their relationships between) are underdeveloped, the dialogue is serviceably-written, and the story revolves around an industrial-conspiracy-driven plot that’s fairly involving, straight forward and easy to follow.

Also adding a great deal of weight to the cast is veteran actor Robert Duvall, playing a former Marine Corps. Gunnery Sergeant who ultimately becomes Reacher’s trigger-happy partner in bringing down the evil doers and rescuing damsel-in-distress defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike).

Early on, Rodin becomes legal counsel to one James Barr (Joseph Sikora), a former US Army Sniper who’s framed for a mass murder by Zec’s gang. Barr and Reacher have history, but although Reacher believes Barr is a psychotic mass murderer, Barr demands Reacher’s help in proving his innocence. Reacher, tarnished Boy Scout that he is, answers the call and quickly finds himself enmeshed in Zec’s conspiracy. He is, in fact, ultimately framed himself by Zec’s gang, which transforms his quest to prove Barr’s innocence into a simultaneous quest to clear his own name.

Although I find Cruise’s real-life behavior and connections to Scientology distasteful, I’m compelled to give credit where it’s due. He once more proves himself in this film to be a formidable screen presence – charming, charismatic, believable. He reminds us with this part why he’s had such longevity and success as a Hollywood leading-man – no small feat for anyone regardless of religion or personal antics.

“Jack Reacher” isn’t a film that will remain long in memory after the credits start, but it’s nonetheless a fun, diverting ride, easily worth the price of a rental.

Rating: Bark-and-a-half

Score: 75/100

Runtime: 130 minutes

Rated PG-13 for no discernable reason

Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****

Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; robert.cox@greensburgdailynews.com