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'Jack Reacher' review: Tom Cruise self-parody

Tom Cruise, left, is Reacher and Robert Duvall

Tom Cruise, left, is Reacher and Robert Duvall is Cash in "Jack Reacher," from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions. (MCT) Photo Credit: MCT

There's a fine line between macho wish fulfillment and delusional fantasy, and "Jack Reacher" crosses it. Reacher, played by Tom Cruise in tight jeans and sometimes a shirt, is always the smartest, strongest and fastest, and the only thing slowing him down are all the gorgeous women in his way. When five guys pick a fight with Reacher, he feels only sadness -- for the hellacious beating they're about to receive.

It all gets pretty insufferable, but "Jack Reacher" doesn't seem to realize this. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") is so caught up in his Mickey Spillane world that he can't tell when his movie starts tipping into self-parody. (Answer: Immediately.)

In this story, Reacher, a former military cop turned drifter, begins investigating the case of a Pittsburgh sniper accused of mowing down several innocent citizens. (Images of a nanny clutching a little girl may come too soon after the Sandy Hook shootings for some viewers; Paramount has excised some gunplay from the film's trailer.) Police Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo) already has his man, but Reacher isn't convinced. The suspect's idealistic attorney, Helen Rodin (an ill-used Rosamund Pike), hires Reacher to find out more.

What he finds, weirdly enough, is Werner Herzog, the acclaimed German filmmaker, slumming as a finger-eating villain named The Zec. Herzog fans will relish the stunt casting, though others may wonder what purpose his character serves. (Answer: None.)

"Jack Reacher" is never truly hard-hitting (the PG-13 rating sees to that), nor is it terribly inventive (it's based on Lee Child's sturdy airport novel "One Shot"). In the end, it's just a corny slugfest that's impossible to take seriously.

PLOT Lee Child's paperback hero comes to the big screen in this thriller about a sniper shooting that may be more complicated than it seems.

RATING PG-13 (violence, language)

CAST Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog.

LENGTH 2:10.

BOTTOM LINE Cruise still fits into his action-hero jeans, but this laughably macho role borders on self-parody. Kudos to German filmmaker Herzog, weirdly cast as the movie's villain, for keeping a straight face.


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