While watching Jack Reacher, one gets the impression there’s a great satire to be made from Lee Child’s meat-headed crime series about a maverick ex-military cop with a laser-like intensity and proclivity for stripping down to his Wranglers.
Unfortunately no one plucked up the courage to explain to leading man and executive producer Tom Cruise that his new franchise-in-waiting works better as a joke. The comic potential is there for all to see: glance sideways at Reacher, a preening action man who knows the walking distance to every bus terminal in America and isn’t shy about boasting about it, and you have a MacGruber-style egotist armed only with a gun and a girdle.
Cruise’s wavelength may be tuned to straight-faced action flick, but Way of the Gun director Christopher McQuarrie does smuggle some spicy elements into the bland pulp. Chief of these is the choice of villain. Moonlighting from his day job as everyone’s favourite Bavarian auteur, Werner Herzog’s wile turn as the Zec, a Russian mobster who likes to monologue about his finger eating good technique for combatting frostbite in Siberia, adds a much needed dose of gonzo weirdness to this by-the-numbers actioner. If only McQuarrie had looked to Herzog’s batshit Bad Lieutenant for some tips on how to turn a crime drama on its head.
But instead he and his leading man give us a Colombo-like procedural minus Peter Falk’s crumpled charm. Rosamund Pike is wasted as Reacher’s quasi-love interest. All her role seems to involve is pretending she finds him irresistible while trying to not look so tall. A three-man brawl in a tiny bathroom is a witty highlight; a boringly incoherent shootout in a quarry is the anticlimactic low. More Reacher films are sure to follow. Hopefully Cruise can locate his funny bone by then.