It’s the ultimate in back-handed compliments to say of any actor that he was fantastic playing a character that you cannot stand a bar of. But such is the case with Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher (who, apparently, is 6’ 5” and blond in the books). Lee Child’s novels are highly regarded by readers of this school of vigilante heroism and it appears that he and the spin-off movie franchise (this is the third feature) have struck a chord with a particular type of blokes (my guess is that they’d be supporters of Donald Trump, too), but if high-camp machismo bores you to tears you’ll not bother with this. Reacher was once an officer in the US Military Police. Now he more or less just roams around America with his gun(s) and a chip on his shoulder that leads him to violently sorting out messes and ridding the world of bad dudes wherever he lays his hat (it’s not what you’d call an unfamiliar Hollywood scenario). But that is all there is to him – if Child gives him depth on the page it vanishes on screen. The Girl so desperately in need of Reacher’s help is Major Turner (Cobie Smulders), a close associate of Jack’s who it seems was involved in the murder of a couple of soldiers in Afghanistan. But she has been framed, as is Reacher himself when he is accused of being the killer of Turner’s lawyer. Out of left field, there is the revelation that Jack is the father of 15-year-old Samantha (Danika Yarosh) – a plot surprise that Cruise is less adept at dealing with than all of the running and jumping and shooting people that he is required to do. The movie is slower paced than you’d expect from a low-brow action piece and the series of climaxes are monotonously brutal. What is increasingly prevalent in this type of flick is an ‘ugliness’ in tone and world-view – and of course, the real villains are involved in government (it’s de rigueur to see officialdom as rotten at its core).
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