In the popular Lee Child thrillers from which Jack Reacher has been fashioned, the title character’s physical dimensions are integral to his mysterious-loner-silent-drifter-violent-hero stature: He’s 6′ 5”, brawny, and blond. So Tom Cruise, who is not, has his work cut out for him in his mission to impress both those who already have strong notions about how Reacher ought to look and those just now meeting the freelance one-man justice league and trying to take his measure.
That Cruise fails to make a case for Reacher’s allure, though, has less to do with physical dissonance than it does with the film’s inability — stupefying inability, really — to otherwise make a case for the character’s originality in a movie so choked with visual clichés and dreadfully moldy dialogue. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (who previously worked with Cruise on Valkyrie), Jack Reacher stumbles around looking for a unifying narrative tone, while the star soldiers on, offering up his generic action-hero stance of calm, opaque concentration. (An obligatory shirtless shot of Cruise confirms that his famous discipline in all things physical and mental still pays off.)
The story, meanwhile, is run-of-the-mill muscular pulp. While all evidence points to a former military sniper in the apparently random shooting of five victims, JR follows his own instincts — calmly, opaquely, except when he’s a coldly violent fighting machine — and draws his own conclusions. Along the way, he crosses paths with a Russian mobster sinister enough to sound exactly like Werner Herzog, maybe because Herzog plays said mobster with lip-smacking gusto and a display of tiny teeth. And Reacher works side by side with a Blond Lady DA — probably as good a name for her as any, since British beauty Rosamund Pike (An Education) is given a Jane Doe of a role to work with. Jack Reacher doesn’t play well with others; Jack Reacher is an argument to leave the guy alone. C+