Tom Cruise rattles through every trope in the book as the vigilante ex-soldier, this time fleeing corrupt bosses in a high-octane sequel that revels in its absurdity
Tom Cruise is back in the role of Jack Reacher, badass military cop turned maverick civilian engaged in freelance pro bono asskicking. He is suffused with pimpernel mystery. At the end of an adventure, Reacher will stick his thumb out and hitchhike his way into the night. (At the end of Pulp Fiction, John Travolta is derisive about Samuel L Jacksons ambition to walk the earth like Caine from the TV show Kung Fu on the grounds that he would just be a bum. But maybe he would be like Jack Reacher.)
This is the second in Tom Cruises silly, entertaining Reacher franchise, and I was hoping he would marry a woman called Round and go for the double-barrelled surname. Instead, he monkishly refrains from sex but does pull a classic Cruise/Reacher move: semi-undressing in a motel room after a punchup, disclosing pecs which fall impressively on the right side of the moob borderline. An attractive woman also partially disrobes, flaunting a workaday bra strap.
Another Reacher trope is the grumpy solo meal in the scuzzy cafe, which generally comes just before or after the biggest Reacher signature of all: beating the daylights out of five or six bullies whose sneery expressions and close-cropped goatees denote imminent victim status more clearly than red shirts on Star Trek crew. Cruise also gives us his some vintage sprinting now as distinctive a trait as Nic Cages sudden shouting as well as a bit of free climbing and some Olympic-quality ledge dangling.
The story opens as Reacher has rather sweetly fallen for Lt Susan Turner, just through talking to her on the phone. She is played by Cobie Smulders (who plays Agent Maria Hill in the Avengers films). But when Jack shows up in Washington DC for their blind date, he is informed that Lt Turner has been arrested for espionage. Clearly she is the victim of a shady cover-up from corrupt top brass, and Reachers quietly furious demands to know whats going on are undermined when the army claims he is the subject of a paternity case, and that he is the dad of a stroppy teen, Samantha (Danika Yarosh). Reacher is wrongly accused of murder by the crooked authorities, and in time-honoured style goes on the run, taking his quasi-spouse and daughter, while blowing the lid off a terrible conspiracy.
The highlight of the first movie was its outrageous villain, played by Werner Herzog. I was hoping for a similar auteur bad guy in this one surely Paul Verhoeven would have been a good sport? Well, there is no juicy high-concept baddie this time around, but there is a lot of enjoyable hokum and cheerful ridiculousness, especially when Reacher has to spring someone from military prison using his trademark combo of resourcefulness and punching. Popcornily preposterous and watchable.
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