The Reacher series of books by British author Lee Child have been phenomenally successful, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling. I did ask Lee Child at a book signing some years before, who would play Reacher, all he would say was negotiations were ongoing but it was going to happen.
If you had polled most readers, Tom Cruise as the titular character might not have been top of the list and in fact the Internet was dripping with vitriol for some weeks after the announcement.
Personifying a well known character from a book is always difficult, you are attempting to match someone who only exists in other people’s imagination. Aside of the obvious and insurmountable physical limitations (i.e. height and physique), Cruise does a reasonable approximation of the taciturn character that I imagined.
Choosing a mid canon entry around the shooting of innocent civilians “One Shot”, the story jumps straight into the action and wastes little time in bringing audiences up to speed. Reacher’s back history is briefly sketched out through conversations between third parties.
Reacher is called up to help investigate the fall out from the deaths of five civilians at the hands of an ex-military sniper in a heartland American city, Pittsburgh. Reacher then becomes an informal investigator assisting the defence counsel Helen (Rosamund Pike), also the daughter of the DA (Richard Jenkins). Helen is providing very unpopular counsel for the accused man James Barr (Sikora).
All is not it seems of course, we also have a shadowy bad guy masterminding events, an evil puppet-master if you will “The Zec”, in the shape of sometime eclectic film director Wener Herzog. Herzog makes an effective presence, along with his somewhat disposable henchmen. Robert Duvall also gets a look in, as he helps Reacher find his quarry for the denouement set in, you guessed it a quarry.
Cruise performs the action sequences well, he should by now, he has had enough practice. However, he cannot command the physical presence of towering over the bad guys in fistfights. When a character refers to someone who can kill with a single punch due to their size and strength, it does not ring true that Cruise can effectively fill that character role.
Notwithstanding this fundamental flaw, this is a well made old fashioned style action thriller that perhaps loses imagination and the ability to go to new places about half way. Almost as if Director Christopher McQuarrie then took the easy route and falls into standard action cliches. This is also yet another thriller where you will think, forget the rain-soaked punch up, just shoot him already.
Watch out for Lee Child making a cameo as a Police desk sergeant, no lines though, he clearly needs a better agent.
An adequate action thriller that will please most if not hard core fans of the book. Cruise acquitting himself well albeit starting with physical limitations he cannot realistically overcome.
Whilst a franchise was planned, initial box office was only fair but overall internationally has hit over $200m with talks now in place for a sequel, which overall this character deserves.
Fun facts, Reacher is named after the people that shop for online orders in UK supermarkets and Lee Child is a pseudonym for Jim Grant.