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Jack Reacher
In Theaters: 12/21/2012
On Video: 05/07/2013
By: Christopher Null
Jack Reacher
Now that's a squirt gun.

A lunatic sniper fires off rounds from a parking garage, killing five presumably random people on the streets below. Identified by a fingerprint, the former soldier is arrested and promptly interrogated. In lieu of a confession, he scrawls on a piece of paper, “GET JACK REACHER.”

Whoa! Who’s Jack Reacher? A former military criminal investigator who lives off the grid — riding only buses and taking money from his pension via hard-to-trace wire transfers. The cops can’t find Reacher, but lucky for them he shows up at the station, ready to weigh in on the case — but only if his court-appointed defender (Rosamund Pike) agrees to take him on as an investigator.

Hey, who wouldn’t want an anonymous freak on their case, right?

Things only get stranger from there, with Reacher proving to have an uncanny ability to suss out the truth, determine motivations, and figure out if he’s being framed, all within seconds of meeting someone. The truth behind these sniper shootings isn’t just shocking, it involves Werner Herzog.

Jack Reacher is the kind of movie — and the kind of character — that can only exist in the mind of the writer of a pulp thriller book. (He’s the lead character in at least a 17 novels written by author Lee Child, who now cranks out five or six of these a year.) There’s no real logic why Reacher is so paranoid that he only uses cash, and no explanation as to where he’s constantly headed on all these bus trips he takes. There’s no real sense behind the killer’s interrogation request for Reacher, but at least it makes more sense than Pike’s character facing off against the D.A. (Richard Jenkins), who’s her father!

This was the lowest-grossing Tom Cruise movie in years, and the soap opera histrionics are largely to blame. Jack Reacher revolves around wild impossibilities and baffling motivations, and the conclusion is a whopper that outdoes everything I’ve discussed above.

At the same time, it’s kind of watchable. Cruise doesn’t do badly here — though he’s not really up to the task of taking on the ballbusting, grizzled veteran — and the supporting players at least seem to be having fun. Director Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) elevates the material the best he can. If nothing else, the shootout scenes — which are frequent — are plenty fun to watch.

One thing’s for sure, even if Hollywood decides to continue this franchise (unlikely) there’s no way it will ever keep up with Child’s prodigious output.

Blu-ray extras include a commentary track from Cruise and McQuarrie, plus numerous making-of featurettes.