Since splitting from Katie Holmes this past summer, Tom Cruise has made headlines for his personal tribulations rather than his upcoming projects. His latest film, "Jack Reacher," has been overshadowed by high-profile releases like "The Hobbit," "Les Misérables" and "Django Unchained," which are set to dominate the box office.
Despite the odds being stacked against it, Cruise's built-in fanbase and the popularity of the Jack Reacher book series could give the film a boost. Furthermore, the film is earning decent reviews. Some find it difficult to accept Cruise as an intimidating former Military Police Major (in the books Reacher is well over 6 feet tall), noting that the role would be better suited for a more traditional action hero like Sylvester Stallone. Others have called Cruise's performance one of his best.
After a mysterious sniper murders five people, Jack Reacher (Cruise) is called in to apprehend the perpetrator (German director Werner Herzog). Based on Lee Child's 2005 novel "One Shot," the high-octane thriller also stars Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins. The film reunites Cruise with "Valkyrie" director Christopher McQuarrie.
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter praised Herzog and the supporting players in "Jack Reacher."
"The actual unraveling of the plot might contain limited surprises," McCarthy said, "but again, McQuarrie provides satisfactions with the surprise casting of director Werner Herzog as a creepy bad guy, introducing Robert Duvall as a late-appearing key character and setting his action climax at night in a visually arresting quarry that carries the connotations of both a wartime battlefield and an ancient combat arena."
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McCarthy not only buys Cruise as Reacher, he also thinks the role could lead to his next franchise.
"At least in terms of his action-film portfolio, Cruise is in top form here; if he feels like working really hard as a star and producer, he could alternate big-budget "Mission: Impossible" outings with less expensive 'Jack Reacher' installments for a number of years, with other projects slipped in between them," he said.
Variety's Peter Debruge wasn't as enthusiastic.
"Reacher is a brawny action figure whose exploits would have been a good fit for the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone back in the day, but feel less fun when delegated to a leading man like Tom Cruise," Debruge said. "The star is too charismatic to play someone so cold-blooded, and his fans likely won't appreciate the stretch."
James Mottram of Total Film gave "Jack Reacher" four out of five stars but felt that Herzog is underused.
"Unquestionably, the casting of Werner Herzog is the masterstroke," Mottram said. "Although not a first for the German director, never has he been in such a high-profile Hollywood film.
"But the trouble is," he continued, "having crafted one of the most potentially memorable screen villains in recent Hollywood history, McQuarrie’s adaptation never quite gets to grips with Herzog, who almost lurks too far in the film’s background."
When it comes to Cruise, Mottram noted that the actor's stature is of little importance.
"As for Cruise, he may be shorter than the 6-feet, 5-inch Reacher of Child’s books – a topic that vexed some fans – but that doesn’t deter from one of his most intense, determined performances in recent memory."
So will the film hold it's own at the box office? Judging by the performance of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," which was released during the 2011 Oscar season and pulled in $209 million, the film has a fighting chance.
'Jack Reacher' hits theaters on Dec. 21.