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Published: Thursday, 5/9/2013

Cruise still a reach as lead, but ‘Jack Reacher’ entertains

BY RICH HELDENFELS
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
Actor Tom Cruise portrays the title character in 'Jack Reacher.' Actor Tom Cruise portrays the title character in 'Jack Reacher.'
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Before Jack Reacher arrived in theaters, the thriller took heat from fans of the books by Lee Child that inspired the movie.

Child’s Reacher was a big man. The movie’s was Tom Cruise.

The movie (Paramount, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray/ DVD/ digital combo), released Tuesday, has some thrills and an understated quality in the characters’ behavior and sometimes smart dialogue. Reacher is, in fact, an interesting character, matter-of-factly living in a way that perplexes people he deals with. And the movie plays both to Cruise’s international following and the appetite for action films overseas, with long stretches where the dialogue is no more than spare. (And, in fact, the movie did far better internationally than it did in the United States) Child both signed off on the Cruise casting and took a cameo role in the film.

But, while Cruise has shown he can project menace, and while he approaches Reacher in a manner that is at times very Clint Eastwood-like, the character still seems less plausible than he did in Child’s rendition. The print Reacher can intimidate. The screen Reacher is more commonly underestimated.

There’s a somewhat twisty plot involving one of Reacher’s old colleagues, a horrible shooting, and the hows and whys of the same. Besides Cruise, the cast includes Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog (better known as a director), and Jai Courtney (who firmed up his action credentials by playing Bruce Willis’ son in the latest Die Hard movie). It’s entertaining enough, but I kept thinking about how it would have worked with a different star.

The DVD includes an access code to download the first chapter of the next Reacher novel. 

In addition to the access code, the Blu-ray adds pieces about Reacher, and an audio commentary with Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie.

As mixed as I was about Jack Reacher, it was far more entertaining than Safe Haven (Fox, $29.98 DVD, $39.99 DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo), the latest screen adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. This one stars Julianne Hough as a woman on the run who lands in a North Carolina town and begins to fall for a local widower (Josh Duhamel). Love blossoms, but trouble looms. And there is a very, very manipulative twist at the end.

As I said when the film was in theaters, it aims to be no more than shiny fantasy — one where questions of money and jobs are easily resolved (if they are asked at all), where fights leave few bruises, and the leading lady’s hair always looks good, no matter what she has been through. 

But it is also painfully slow. And Hough and Duhamel are just blandly pretty, no more emotional than cheap landscape paintings.

The DVD adds an alternate ending and deleted and extended scenes. Besides those features, the Blu-ray combo has a set tour, a making-of piece and “Josh Duhamel’s guide to crabbing.”

Other items of note:

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty) steps into horror with Mama (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray / digital/DVD combo). It involves two girls who vanished when their parents were killed; found years later, they are taken in by their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend (Chastain). But their story is far from over.

Citizen Hearst (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD) is the video release of the laudatory documentary about the publisher and his company, which was shown in April on the Bio channel. (For what it’s worth, the channel is part of A&E Networks, owned partly by the Hearst Corp.). The DVD includes the film as shown on TV plus 30 minutes of deleted scenes and an America’s Castles episode about the Hearst castle.

If you are already missing 30 Rock (and I do), Tuesday delivered the DVD release of the seventh and final season (Universal, 13 episodes, $44.98). Extras include deleted scenes, webisodes, and audio commentaries on selected episodes. Also on the finale front: Private Practice: The Complete Sixth Season (ABC, 13 episodes, $39.99) wraps up that series’ run with extras including deleted scenes and bloopers.

The Hemingway acting lineage continues with Dree (daughter of Mariel), who plays a would-be actress befriending an elderly woman in Starlet (Music Box, $29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray), a little seen but critically well-received tale.

Finally, the Steven Soderbergh thriller Side Effects, with Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara, comes to DVD and Blu-ray on May 21, but will be available Tuesday as a digital download.



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