DVD Release Date: May 7, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: December 21, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, language and some drug material)
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama
Run Time: 130 min.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog

In what’s the worst possible timing for a film with five gun-related fatalities in the first few minutes, Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) plays yet another action hero with panache in Jack Reacher, the creation of popular British novelist Lee Child.

Considering that Child’s protagonist was 6’5", brawny and blonde, playing the part is a tall order (quite literally) for Cruise, who makes up for what he lacks in height (he’s 5’7") and flaxen locks with convincing expertise in taking down the bad guys by any means possible. And trust me, he’s forced to get creative, really creative, in a slew of prickly situations, using skills that were honed during his character’s years of dedicated military service.

Like the amnesiac with killer instincts before him, Jason Bourne, Reacher is also a bit of an enigma. While his memory is fully intact, no one even knows much about him until someone accused of the aforementioned shootings scribbles “Get Jack Reacher” on a sheet of paper. As it turns out, Reacher is a former military investigator who spent most of his life overseas. Now wandering from city to city by bus (off the grid, naturally) in the country he’s always served, Reacher makes his way to Pittsburgh.

Since the accused, now lying comatose in a hospital bed, got away with a similar crime in Iraq, Reacher is eventually hired by a dedicated defense lawyer (Rosamund Pike, An Education) to investigate exactly what went down. While the evidence at the crime scene seems to seal the ex-soldier’s fate, she’s ultimately committed to ensuring a fair trial for her client.

Not surprisingly, Reacher discovers that these seemingly random civilian shootings weren’t all that random at all. Uncovering an international crime ring’s elaborate plan to frame the case’s #1 suspect, the movie quickly segues into a crafty cat-and-mouse game with a big body count. While the car chases and ensuing brawls are nothing that moviegoers haven’t seen before from Bourne, Bond and the like, it’s Reacher’s deadpan sense of humor a la Dirty Harry that helps lighten the mood.

Rather than flashing his trademark toothy grin, it also helps that Cruise, now 50, actually looks a little weathered and rough around the edges. Instead of being Tom Cruise, one of the world’s most recognizable movie stars, he actually disappears into the character. Managing to even one-up his own relatively humorless Ethan Hunt character, master of impossible situations, Cruise shares a couple of great scenes with his Days of Thunder co-star Robert Duvall (Get Low), who brings a welcome wackiness to these serious proceedings as the owner of a gun range.

Jack Reacher goes down smooth as a compelling action movie, but it’s not exactly what you’d call escapist entertainment—not in light of such horrific events in Connecticut recently. As the civilians in the opening frames just go about their business on a sunny day before facing their untimely, unnecessary demise, one can’t help thinking about the fallen from Sandy Hook Elementary and elsewhere.