Maybe it’s all the couch-jumping and tabloid weirdness, or maybe it’s his outrageous appearances in ‘Tropic Thunder’ and ‘Rock of Ages’, but it’s becoming difficult to take Tom Cruise seriously. Which is fine when he’s keeping it fairly light. But as Jack Reacher – the hero of Lee Childs’s hugely popular thriller series – he’s called upon to growl, grunt and gun guys down in cold blood. And it’s hard not to laugh.
An ex-US Army drifter who uses his superhuman fighting skills and vast intellect to help the needy, Reacher is a kind of a one-man A-Team. His mission is to investigate the case of James Mark Barr, a military sniper accused of picking off five ordinary people in Pittsburgh. But although the case against Barr seems watertight, Reacher has his suspicions, and it all leads – rather wonderfully – to Werner Herzog in funny-coloured contact lenses.
It’s hard to tell in what spirit we should receive writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s film – Herzog’s scenery-chewing turn and most of Cruise’s laughably macho dialogue suggest pastiche, but an air of gritty, post-Bush bleakness and some brutal, bone-snapping violence make for an odd tonal balance. The result is an average, action-heavy detective story which walks a fine line between the compelling and comical.