Direction: Christopher McQuarrie
Actors: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike
The lengthy, dialogue-free opening sequence in which a sniper guns down five seemingly random passersby is tantalising. Disappointingly, however, the rest of Jack Reacher moves into the predictable action thriller mode with the twisty-turny story being used as a ploy for biff-pow-bang skirmishes.
Adapted from the ninth in a series of frequent flyer-friendly novels by the British author Lee Child, the film is evidently designed as a star showcase for Tom Cruise. The 50-year-old actor, who also serves as producer, portrays the eponymous former military investigator turned vigilante drifter.
Asked to intervene on behalf of a suspected shooter, the restless Reacher reluctantly joins forces with the defence attorney (the ever-gorgeous Pike) who's intent on proving her client's innocence. Together, they uncover new evidence which suggests that there's a lot more to the case than meets the eye.
Writer-director McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for his script of The Usual Suspects (1995), strives for a gritty seventies-style feel but the pulp fiction is so languorously paced we just wish he'd get it over with.
There's a fairly exciting nighttime car chase through the mean streets of Pittsburgh. The climactic confrontation in a rock quarry borders on the ludicrous, though.
The unflappable protagonist tends to spout platitudes as he eliminates a horde of anonymous henchmen. Action icon Tom Cruise, who reportedly performs many of his own stunts, still has a striking screen presence making his super-heroics somewhat credible. Veteran character actor Robert Duvall is dependably zestful as a crotchety gun-range owner.
In what must surely be the casting coup of the year, legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) plays the criminal mastermind. An ex-prisoner of war who survived the Soviet gulag, he even orders one of his thugs to bite off his own thumb. Just for Mr. Herzog's campy performance, it might be worth your while to make your way to the nearest multiplex.