A little over two years ago, George Clooney’s The American limped in and out of theaters with little or no fanfare– a quiet, almost esoteric movie about an assassin hiding out in Italy. Fast forward to this week, and we get another A-lister in a movie that will leave many of his fans perplexed.

Tom Cruise stars as a rogue, ex-military investigator in Jack Reacher, based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child. Those expecting a big-bang-boom action thriller better look at the calendar; this ain’t summer.

Jack Reacher is much more even-tempoed and cerebral than the trailer would have you believe, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still deliver the goods. It does. Director and writer Christopher McQuarrie (the scribe behind The Usual Suspects) knows how to craft a thriller (even one of the subdued variety), and Jack Reacher is no exception.

When a sniper kills five random people from his perch in a Pittsburgh parking garage (in a scene that is all the more harrowing in the wake of recent events), all signs point to one man– the wrong guy. When he’s arrested, all he does is ask for Jack Reacher. But Reacher beats him to the punch and shows up on his own– eager to help the man’s defense attorney (Rosamund Pike) figure out what really happened.

Cruise tackles Child’s iconic role with a quiet calm that helps Jack Reacher evolve into a gripping, make-you-think drama, with the occasional car chase and fistfight thrown in for good measure. And the stellar supporting cast including Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, and Pike (in what will hopefully be her long-deserved breakout role) are all spot-on.

Yes, Jack Reacher can be accused of following ye olde police procedural formula too closely, but Cruise’s cool-as-a-cucumber performance and McQuarrie’s tricky script help it go off the beaten path just enough to entertain.

4/5 stars