“Jack Reacher” is a lot smarter than you’ve been led to believe by the ads.

Clever dialogue, a cunning and mysterious hero, and violence that’s present but subdued make this action thriller a wise choice for grownups.

Reacher’s character will be familiar to fans of British novelist Lee Child (real name Jim Grant), who has written numerous books about the fictional Reacher, a former American military officer.

Tom Cruise is Reacher, who lives a reclusive and almost-invisible life until he comes out of hiding to investigate a case involving a Pittsburgh sniper.

It’s unfortunate the movie’s release was timed for the weekend when the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre occurred. I doubt that anyone in the audience will fail to think of the tragedy that continues to unfold in actual headlines when they see the beginning of this movie: A well-armed and well-prepared sniper arrives on an ordinary sunny day to kill five people, seemingly at random.

The first sequence, beautifully directed by screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (he wrote the phenomenal “The Usual Suspects,” in case you’re a fan of that movie), depicts the events from the sniper’s point of view. He points his weapon first at one person, then another, and we see people fall as he begins to fire.

When the suspect is apprehended, he has only one written request: “Get Jack Reacher.” And although authorities can’t find any information that allows them to summon Reacher, he does appear, assuring everyone he is not a friend of the suspect. Reacher ends up being hired as an investigator by the suspect’s attorney (Rosamund Pike, “An Education”). And then Reacher becomes a target of an unknown assassin.

It’s not all that far from the remarkable “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” that came out about a year ago. Cruise is wonderful as the brilliant, no-nonsense investigator, a guy no one wants to mess with.

One of the coolest parts of the movie is the casting, which includes the phenomenal director Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man,” “Rescue Dawn”) as a villain. He’s amazing as tough-as-nails bad guy “The Zec,” who chewed off his own fingers to keep from getting frostbite in a Siberian prison. (Talk about a tough guy. Move over, Liam Neeson.) Also, in a small but pivotal role, Robert Duvall stars as a gun shop proprietor. It’s entertaining to watch him and Cruise together as two master actors at work.

I think I see the beginnings of a franchise here. I hope so.