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Liz Smith Headshot

Timing Is Everything

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Paramount
Paramount

"Timing is everything!" as a wise philosopher once said.

And this seems to coordinate with events of late.

The murder of 20 innocent children in Connecticut backed the Nation Rifle Association into a corner they will be wiggling to get out of. It didn't help any that this horrible event happened just before Christmas.

But I don't think violence in movies is going to have much effect on the box office of a brand-new film, Jack Reacher, based on Lee Child's book series.

All of the Child books are about a fully developed vigilante character, so distaste for this first Jack Reacher story, which depicts the shooting of five people right in the beginning of the film, may not exactly quantify as "too violent" for the season. There is no innocence in the Reacher books. No meaningless violence. And lots of justification.

We, who are fascinated by Child's Jack Reacher character, are just bemused by someone so physically powerful that he can travel around the country with virtually no mode of personal transportation, no luggage, not a lot of cash and he can buy a new toothbrush, razor and clean clothes and discard what he is wearing as he looks for trouble.

Jack Reacher is a nonexistent kind of man. You may secretly wish there were more like him. He is a "homeless" person who is not needy. He is an independent cuss who knows right from wrong but is his own judge and jury. He uses his fists and his native-given "smarts," or a weapon, if one is at hand. Reacher is a character who has more or less resigned from the human race. He is not greedy, avaricious, or ambitious. He was a military policeman at one time so he's been there and done that. He dislikes evil and fights it.

I don't know why it took so long to get a Reacher story on the silver screen. I've read almost all of the Child books and I'd advise you to also read some of them before you see the movie. You'll have a wonderful time, because no matter how you feel about violence -- we all harbor a need for justice satisfied, villains punished and no harm to come to our own.

Of course, Lee Child's hero accomplishes all this for us and then we don't have to bother with the complexities of acting out judgment on our own situations. Perfect!

Oh yes, Jack Reacher isn't just handy with his big fists. He is also very smart and the complex plots of some of the novels are intricate and complicated indeed.

Tom Cruise wins high marks from me performing against a known and well-imagined character who he doesn't physically resemble. But he is movie star enough for this story. He always reaffirms what you already know -- that Tom Cruise is capable, talented and able to pull off almost anything any other human being can.

Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed the popular The Way of the Gun, has already received critical kudos for Jack Reacher. He was Paramount's excellent choice.

I think you can go see this movie without any misgivings of cultivating extra violence. After all, it's only a movie. And a good one, at that!