Even a madballs supporting turn from Werner frickin’ Herzog can't save this slick Tom Cruise vehicle from generic mediocrity.
Eyebrows were raised when the announcement was made that Tom Cruise had bagged the lead in a major adaptation of Lee Child’s 2005 novel 'One Shot'.
Understandably so: Child’s barrel-chested, dirty blond protagonist stands a skyscrapping 6'5" and is renowned for his stoic, remorseless demeanour – attributes Cruise can hardly claim to possess.
In Christopher McQuarrie's film, however, it’s not Reacher’s size or strength that matter so much as his ability to always be thinking two moves ahead. Reacher’s extensive technical and military knowledge, photographic memory and uncannily accurate internal clock make him something of a superhuman antihero.
In the world of Tom Cruise: action star, of course, anything is possible. And yet despite being the best man for the job, not even The Missile’s powers of seduction are enough to rescue this flat if fleetingly spectacular conspiracy thriller.
It all starts so promisingly. In an awesome video game-inspired opening sequence, a lone gunman fixes his crosshairs on a rush hour promenade. Six shots. Five dead. The crime scene is littered with clues all pointing to a former Army sniper with a blemished mental health record. It’s a slam-dunk case. But the suspect vehemently denies all charges, thickening the plot by squaring a loaded directive at the arresting officers: 'Get Jack Reacher'.
Before anyone has time to pick up the phone, though, Reacher arrives on the scene with the messianic swagger of an all-star quarterback. Despite the overwhelming evidence stacked against the accused, Reacher is convinced of his innocence.
And so with the help of spunky defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) he sets out to prove just that, inadvertently unveiling a cover up engineered by a mysterious ex-Gulag prisoner known simply as The Zec (Werner Herzog) for reasons that never fully become clear.
Reacher is a cool customer. As comfortable handling a Chevy Chevelle in a high-speed chase as he is an automatic weapon in a drenched quarry or, for that matter, himself in a street fight. He’s also a bit of a dick – insufferably smug, patronising to the authority figures around him and chauvinistic to a fault.
If recent genre archetypes like Jason Bourne and to a lesser extent Daniel Craig’s 007 have proven anything, it’s that today’s action hero needs to be capable of pulling off extraordinary feats of mental and physical prowess while still displaying genuine human emotion.
You can snag the biggest movie star of his generation, deliver thrilling set piece after thrilling set piece, even get Werner frickin’ Herzog to play the villain, but it all counts for nothing if your film (and potential franchise) hinges on a character who’s totally out of time.
Can Tom Cruise scale the heights of Ghost Protocol?
Sadly not, though like the similarly uneven Knight And Day, Jack Reacher has its moments.
There’s no room for Reacher in modern cinema's action crowd.