Sometimes, it can be more difficult than usual to review a film. Take a film that's often funny, for example -- except you can't tell whether or not the laughs are intentional.

"Jack Reacher" certainly fits into this category. The presence in the cast of Werner Herzog not only elevates this action flick to above average, it also gives me hope that the sometimes-over-the-top nature of the film was purposeful.

When Herzog finally features in the movie, playing its ultimate villain, it comes as a surprise. "Jack Reacher," based on the novel "One Shot," part of best-selling writer Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, stars and was produced by Tom Cruise and includes typical action film fare: a beautiful woman in danger, exciting car chases, a dramatic final shootout. The dialogue can be ridiculous in this film -- and it can also be quite sharp. The story line alone makes it compelling enough, without the addition of top-notch acting.

The film begins with five strangers seemingly gunned down at random on a sunny day in Pittsburgh. It seems odd when the sniper puts on a pair of sunglasses before he takes his shots. It's even odder when evidence quickly leads the police to the man responsible -- and it's not the man we saw commit the crime.

On screen
'Jack Reacher'
3 out of 4 stars
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material
Running time: 130 minutes

That man said just one thing before his fellow prisoners put him into a coma: "Get Jack Reacher." But Reacher was already on his way. The former military cop had investigated the shooter before, for killings in Iraq, but the soldier never did jail time. Reacher sees his old adversary's name on television and wants to make sure he's put behind bars this time.

Nobody can figure out why the guy would ask for help from a guy who hates him. But Reacher, a drifter whose first priority is justice, not the law, soon realizes that the police arrested the wrong man. The trail -- after a number of unfair fights that Reacher always manages to win -- eventually leads to a shadowy figure known only as the Zec.

"I was in prison in Siberia," the Zec reveals to an accomplice in his heavily accented English before holding up his hands. "I chewed these fingers off before frostbite turned to gangrene." The Zec might be the best villain on screen this year -- and yes, I'm including Javier Bardem's delicious turn in "Skyfall."

As far as guilty pleasures go, "Jack Reacher" is surprisingly smarter than most.