Tom Cruise is back in action—literally. Tons of it, and of the loudest, most pulse-pounding varieties.
To have moviegoers on the edges of their seats is at least the intention of Jack Reacher, the latest film in which Cruise plays an appealing rogue with a big gun, a tortured past and little patience for anything that gets in his way on the lonely road to the truth.
But will Reacher fans—who already weren't nuts about the 6-foot-5 hero of Lee Child's best-selling book series being played by the, er, shorter Cruise—be able to handle the truth?
The truth being that Jack Reacher is a pretty decent action movie—if you like Tom Cruise. (Critics are unanimous, however, about the "surprise" casting of German filmmaker Werner Herzog as the villain being the greatest thing ever.)
But not every critic is singing Tom's praises Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum gave the film an unsatisfactory C+ and criticized the entire flick:
"That Cruise fails to make a case for Reacher's allure, though, has less to do with physical dissonance than it does with the film's inability—stupefying inability, really—to otherwise make a case for the character's originality in a movie so choked with visual clichés and dreadfully moldy dialogue," she wrote.
While The Guardian's Catherine Shoard critiqued Tom's subpar stature, "Cruise does his best, swinging his arms, puffing his chest, clumping along with the physicality of a bigger man. But just as sucking in your cheeks can't make you thinner, nor does going through doors torso-first actually add inches."
However, HitFix's Drew McWeeny praised Cruise's signature movie star appeal: "Cruise may not be the same size as the Reacher of the novels, but this is every bit as entertaining as any fan of the character could hope."
Variety's Peter Debruge calls the Christopher McQuarrie-directed and -written adaption "pretty generic" (and the script "mostly derivative") and calls Cruise "too charismatic to play someone so cold-blooded." But since when did being too charismatic become a bad thing when it comes to the center of a potential franchise? (The Bourne trilogy didn't work because Matt Damon was repulsive, right?)
"The setup may be clunky and the character a cliche, but the film looks terrific...and somewhat redeems its silliness through action, featuring several satisfying hand-to-hand altercations, a tense car chase and a well-staged climactic shootout in a gravel quarry," Debruge added, also noting one particular shooting match in which Cruise, finally in "badass mode," is armed only with a knife.
But TotalFilm.com's James Mottram thought McQuarrie and Cruise totally clicked in the "on-target thriller."
"The moment Tom Cruise strides into Jack Reacher, smouldering like an active volcano, that ‘click' can be heard loud and clear," he wrote.
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, as well, praises Jack Reacher's "gritty, low-tech, real muscle appeal."
"Cruise plays him with no fuss in a direct, pared-down way with little sense of amped-up intensity or vanity; he can even take a joke at his own expense, as when he's stripped to the waist in a motel room, and Rosamund Pike says, 'Could you put your shirt on, please?'" McCarthy wrote.
Well, now we know what the most implausible scene in the entire film is...
"At least in terms of his action-film portfolio, Cruise is in top form here," McCarthy concluded about the leading man.
Tom Clift at Moviedex.com, meanwhile, deems Jack Reacher a "gripping old-school crime thriller" and writes that Cruise "has charisma and the intensity to sell the implausible role, silencing any briefly held doubts with that trademark glare—or a knee to a scumbag's stomach."
There's that word again: charisma. For better or worse.
Jack Reacher will be available for the masses to judge on Dec. 21.
(Originally published Dec. 10, 2012, at 9:00 p.m. PT)