Tom Cruise has found in his latest movie, "Jack Reacher," a fast-moving and interesting action role that could replace his "Mission: Impossible" days, should it become a film franchise. There aren't as many cool gadgets or super spy disguises, but Jack Reacher, the character introduced through a series of best-selling novels by Lee Child, is as rough and tumble as Cruise's Ethan Hunt in the trilogy of spy movies.
Reacher's a man of mystery. You don't call him. He finds you. The former military hero lives off the grid until there's an injustice that needs to be righted. Such a case lures him to Pittsburgh, where a sniper appears to have randomly killed five people. Despite a mountain of evidence against the primary suspect -- a former military sniper -- Reacher knows the man's being framed.
The case becomes so complicated by lies and corruption, the only person Reacher can completely trust is defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike). Even she has a history that could complicate the investigation.
Director Christopher McQuarrie and Child have created a story that could have been any episode of "CSI." There are some twists and turns to the story, but never so much as to cause the facts to get tangled. Plus, Russian mobsters and corrupt cops aren't that original. It's a simplistic story made more interesting by Cruise.
The way Cruise plays Reacher is not that big a reach from many of his past projects. His cool demeanor is an extension of what Cruise played in three "Mission: Impossible" movies, "Minority Report" or even in the light comedy "Knight and Day." What keeps this film from being a mundane murder mystery is that, even at 50, Cruise has the boyish charm to make the character as deadly with a smile as he is with his fists.
McQuarrie does an excellent job of staging the action, from a white-knuckle drive through city streets to a gun battle in a quarry. Just when it looks like the story is about to wade into serious waters, a cantankerous character played with great zeal by Robert Duvall is tossed into the mix.
There's no romantic element. Pike's character has little to do except look amazed when Reacher finds a new clue. It would have been nice to see just a little sexual tension.
In the hands of most other actors, "Jack Reacher" would have been just the latest in a long line of whodunit mysteries. Because Cruise has found the perfect blend of cool and killer in this latest role, the film ends up being enough fun to launch the next film franchise for Cruise.
"Jack Reacher," Running time: 130 minutes. Grade: B
"Jack Reacher," rated PG-13 for language, violence. Stars Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Running time: 130 minutes. Grade: B Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355.