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'Jack Reacher' Arrives With Guns Blazing

Tom Cruise's new action movie suffers from bad timing

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
PG-13. Running time: 130 min.
Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins

I think I'll really like Tom Cruise's new detective thriller, Jack Reacher, when it comes out on home video. But I can't right now. Not after what happened in Newtown, Conn., last week.

No film exists just on the screen. They unspool within the context of the outside world, for better or for worse. Casablanca, for example, opened just as a major World War II battle erupted in North Africa, greatly boosting its box office appeal.

In the wake of Newtown, I found it hard to sit through the opening scene of Jack Reacher, in which a gunman shoots down seemingly random pedestrians along the Pittsburgh waterfront. To make it worse, in an act of cinematic complicity, we are forced to view the victims through the gunman's sniper scope. Likewise, the prodigious gunplay throughout Jack Reacher and the casual way in which the characters (good and bad) dispatch their targets, left me depressed in a way I would not have been before Newtown.

None of this is the filmmakers' fault, of course. And for the millions who love Lee Child's fabulously successful Jack Reacher novels, the long-term news is good.

Tom Cruise is much better in the lead role than I'd expected given the advance outcry from fans of the books, which describe the hero as well over 6 feet and handsome only in a rugged, worn kind of way. Here, Cruise is a believable tough guy: wiry, cynical and infinitely sure of himself. The car chases are thrilling; the villains are suitably despicable, especially veteran film director Werner Herzog as an evil one-eyed industrialist. And Rosamund Pike is appealingly wide-eyed as the defense attorney who enlists Reacher to help her clear the name of a wrongly accused suspect (although Pike's heaving, low-cut bosom, lovingly cropped into the shot whenever possible by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, should probably get third billing).

The plan is to keep cranking out Cruise-as-Reacher flicks for years to come, and there's no reason to think that won't happen.

So, dear reader from the future, if you're scanning this review to see whether Jack Reacher would be a good action movie to catch on your new IHead brain implant media player, I think you'll enjoy it. And so will I, one of these days.

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