This is produced by Tom Cruise – his name is the first thing we see – so its being an overweening vanity piece should not surprise. Gumshoes and crime fighters, particularly those created by novelists (Reacher is from the pages of Lee Child), are frequently heroes with feet of clay. From Sam Spade to JJ Gittes to Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole and Robert G Barrett’s larrikin Les Norton, they are characters with whom we can identify for their not-infrequent falls from grace. Not here.
Cruise’s Reacher is a paragon, an outsider, a lone ranger unsullied by society’s grime – and boy, can he fight! He gets roped into a multiple-murder investigation when the Iraq vet who has been charged with the crime scrawls ‘get Jack Reacher’. The defence counsel, Helen (Rosamund Pike), blonde, beautiful and decked out in a tight black suit that highlights her legs and breasts, will ultimately find herself strapped to a chair in a room full of murderous villains as Jack slaughters his way to her eleventh-hour assistance – at one point he is armed only with a rock against an opponent with a high-powered semi-automatic rifle, but he’s just too good for the bad guy.
Jack is also wittier than everybody else, a solid-gold chick magnet, and can handle a souped-up Chevy like nobody’s business in the mandatory screeching car chase. Yes, the movie is a crass exploitation of dumb male fantasies, but that was a given. It is also high gloss in execution, cleverly plotted, perfectly paced and entirely unencumbered by any foolish inclination to over-estimate the intelligence of its market.
Pike is there to flatter Cruise’s ego, which defies measurement, but there are worthwhile minor contributions from the old dog Robert Duvall and delightful up-and-comer Alexia Fast. A vigilante with a gun and a dispassionate resolve to mete out summary justice to anybody who operates outside his strict moral code – does it ring a bell? Make no mistake, it was Jack Reacher who shot Malala Yousufzai in the head.