How Angry Do We Want Tom Cruise?

Paramount has released a new full-length trailer for the upcoming Tom Cruse action film Jack Reacher, and it is serious. Too serious?

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Paramount has released a new full-length trailer for the upcoming Tom Cruse action film Jack Reacher, and it is serious. Cruise plays the eponymous hero, a former military police toughie who's gone off the grid, only to return to settle a score and/or bring in an ultimate baddie. Based on a beloved series of books, this a hard-boiled story about a grim guy who's not afraid of a little brutal violence. That's all well and good, just look at Drive, but is it really the right thing for Tom Cruise?

Cruise has had an uneasy go of it ever since he started jumping on couches and calling Matt Lauer glib. He was labeled an oddity, a man who seemed a bit maniacally obsessed with his beloved Church of Scientology, an image that was not helped by an unsettling video of Cruise meant for Scientologists' eyes only that was posted on Gawker almost five years ago. People spent a lot of the '00s calling Tom Cruise a weirdo, maybe even a little menacing, and his career suffered because of it. Mission: Impossible III disappointed Valkyrie bombed, Knight and Day was really only a success outside of the U.S. (Which still makes it a success, of course, but Tom Cruise is supposed to be America's chosen leading man.) It took last December's Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol to put Cruise back in the real black. The film was well-reviewed and, on the way to becoming a certified worldwide smash, became the highest-grossing film in the M:I franchise. So Tom Cruise was back on top! Until, maybe, his weird work in Rock of Ages flopped this spring, though he probably doesn't bear the brunt of the blame for that. But the fact remains that his re-ascendancy is still a bit precarious. Is this Jack Reacher, then, the right film for him?

Meaning, I'm just not sure that people like Tom Cruise this intense, given the weirdness of his public image in recent years. It was theorized that M:I III performed less-than-exceptionally because director J.J. Abrams took the franchise in a new, darker, grittier direction. (I loved it, others didn't.) And Valkyrie, about an ultimately doomed Nazi plot to assassinate Hitler, was equally serious material. M:I 4, in contrast, was almost whimsical, directed as it was by Pixar visionary Brad Bird. Isn't that the Cruise audiences want to see right now? The one who can kick-butt while also being a little winking or at least human? Everything on display in this trailer, on the other hand, looks punishing and hard. There are little notes of humor throughout, especially in the little scene at the end, but most of it looks like a no-nonsense vigilante drama. Which doesn't seem like quite the right tone for an actor to take while he's trying to re-endear himself to a skittish audience. Sure in the pre-Katie Holmes days he could do great, intense bad guy work in things like Magnolia and Collateral, but now? Now this might not be exactly the right message to send.

But who knows, maybe everyone is completely over finding Tom Cruise weird or scary. And when you push that factor out of the equation, the movie looks like a good time. Why, it's even got Werner Herzog as some kind of villain. Maybe ol' Werner can use his wacky ways to deflect some of Cruise's bad juju. If anyone can do it, it's him.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.