“Jack Reacher” Movie Review

     If you take "Seven" or "Kiss the Girls" and mix it up with "A Few Good Men", you might have "Jack Reacher", Oscar winning screenwriter (“The Usual Suspects”) Christopher McQuarrie's second directorial effort (“Way of the Gun”).  Here he directs a very game Tom Cruise in the exact kind of role I think he's strongest at.  Aside from the military roots of the film, Cruise is playing a character similar to his "A Few Good Men" character in that he spends a lot of time analyzing various situations while talking out loud. It's always intriguing when characters make their way through a labyrinth of clues only to have the light bulb come on at a key moment.  There's a lot of that in "Jack Reacher", which is based on the book "One Shot", one of many Lee Child novels which feature the main character.

     The film opens in a gruesome fashion which all too familiar in today's headlines.  A sniper takes a position in a parking garage and proceeds to kill several people as they walk innocently going about their day.  The sniper is sloppy though, and leaves behind enough evidence to create what appears to be an open and shut case for homicide investigators against a former Army sniper named James Barr.  Barr is beaten nearly to death while being transported to jail in the company of other inmates and is only able to muster enough energy to indicate to investigators to get Jack Reacher. 

     The name itself is somewhat of a myth, though some become aware that he was once a famed homicide investigator in the Army and has since disappeared in an anonymous life somewhere.  Of course when two local homicide investigators are having a discussion about finding him, Reacher walks through the door and from there begins his own investigation.  He systematically backtracks the investigation done by police investigators while acting as the agent of Barr's attorney, Helen (Rosamund Pike), and takes the audience on the ride.  The investigation of clues left behind are a highlight of the film, especially if you enjoyed the same in films like "Seven".  If you recall the investigation that led Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman's characters to the killer's door in that film, than you know these types of films employ plot devices that are excellent for ratcheting up suspense.  These same devices work well in "Jack Reacher" and both Cruise and McQuarrie do an outstanding job executing them.

     Since the audience is given the identity of the shooter early on, you also get a nice "cat and mouse" game between our protagonist and the villains in the film.  The stakes and reasoning behind the sniper shooting is much more complicated than it initially seems and with every clue Reacher turns over, he begins to uncover more and more of a conspiracy that involves some of the film's major characters.  McQuarrie's adaptation and direction is the key here, allowing Cruise to show off his talents as an actor and does so with more of a thinking man's role, rather than the straight up action film this could've been.  That's not to say "Jack Reacher" doesn't deliver the goods on the excitement front.  A car chase sequence featuring many well known classic muscle cars is a centerpiece mid way through and rivals notable chase sequences like those from "The French Connection" and "Ronin".

     Supporting performances from several key players round out the ensemble in the film well.  Richard Jenkins plays the tough District Attorney who also happens to be Helen's father.  Robert Duvall turns up as a range master who gives Reacher a hand when he needs it most and the film's behind the scenes bad guy is played by none other than famed film director Werner Herzog.  The main adversary is played with a very calm and confident type of evil by Jai Courtney, who will soon play the son of John McClain in 2013's "A Good Day to Die Hard".  The rest of the cast functions nicely around the main stars.

     There's really not much to dislike here. There's a couple important scenes where Reacher stumbles upon clues too conveniently, such as a scene where he pulls into a parking lot and watches the coroner load an uncovered body into a vehicle.  Knowing the person's identity is crucial to Reacher next move and you get the idea he wouldn't have known because the body would've been covered in a bag at that point.  Nonetheless, the procedural scenes are mostly accurate and the dialogue is always entertaining.  I'm not sure how Reacher being able to fight several guys at a time and win with relative ease figures into the story, but I suppose it's just an added dimension to the character for future installments. Perhaps he may need to go into the underworld of the UFC to investigate a case!  The hope is there will be many more "Jack Reacher" films and if the quality and entertainment value of this initial offering are any indication, than we have quite a bit to look forward to.  GRADE: B+