Niagara Gazette — I am a faithful reader of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, although the once-a-year publication pace since 1997 (two books in 2010) has started to cause the recent plots to fray. Child (real name James Grant) is a British author who has put his own spin on that iconographic hero of thrillers: the sullen loner assisting others.
Reacher is a former American military policeman who drifts across the United States without much in the way of luggage, identification, or even emotional baggage. He’s a hard-edged, hard-knocks kind of guy. As he moves across the country, he helps people who find themselves in perilous circumstances. The situations are clever and Reacher’s laconic manner and no-nonsense attitude make for an interesting character. Reacher is a big man, 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing around 250 pounds. He’s smart, but if his brain fails to come up with a resolution, his brawn will settle the score.
The fact of Child’s size is how his character got his name. After losing a job writing promos, commercials, and news items for British television, Child decided to write a novel. He and his wife were in a grocery store in England, and she said to her very tall husband that if the writing didn’t pan out, he could always find work as a “reacher” in a supermarket.
The writing panned out, but the movie “Jack Reacher” is less satisfying than it should be. Loosely based on “One Shot,” which is the ninth book in the series, the filmmakers (screenwriter-director Christopher McQuarrie, and first-billed producer and star Tom Cruise) have completely missed the appeal of a character such as the taciturn Mr. Reacher. He wants to be left alone. That’s a problem when a mega-star like Cruise chooses to play some roles. He needs much of the attention, and if a novel’s narrative doesn’t satisfy, situations will be invented that will.