Tom Cruise stars in this fast-paced, action-packed thriller, based on "One Shot," the ninth in the series of Lee Child's best-selling novels revolving around a cool character named Jack Reacher. And before going any further, here's full disclosure: my son, Don Granger, produced this movie.
Lee Child specifically wanted Cruise to play quirky Jack Reacher, a former military policeman who drifts around the country, usually by bus or hitchhiking, carrying only a foldable toothbrush, expired passport and ATM card. Homeless by choice, living off the grid, he wears clothing for a couple of days, then discards it, buying what he needs at stores like Goodwill.
A tough, self-sufficient loner who speaks in staccato rhythm, Reacher is a man of few words and occasional dry wit. Since he specializes in homicide investigations, when a sniper positions himself in a parking garage across from Pittsburgh's baseball stadium and shoots what appears to be five random people on the riverfront promenade, Reacher suspects there's more to the mysterious murders, particularly when the accused gunman, James Barr (Joseph Sikora), asks for his help. Sikora and Reacher served together in Iraq.
That arouses the suspicion of Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo), who made the arrest; determined District Attorney Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins); and the suspect's criminal defense lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), who happens to be the DA's daughter. Then there are five, ill-fated thugs who challenge Reacher to a bone-crunching fight outside a bar, not to mention other deceptive characters played by Robert Duvall and director/actor Werner Herzog.
Suspense writer/director Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel stage compelling car chases and a treacherous shoot-out in a gravel quarry. But what's most surprising is how adroitly Tom Cruise masks his trademark charisma and becomes completely convincing as the terse, ruthless vigilante, known for his mental and physical dexterity.
FYI: Lee Child fans can glimpse the novelist as the officer giving back his toothbrush to Reacher in the police precinct.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jack Reacher" is an enigmatic 8. It's escapist entertainment.