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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 118 minutes.

OK for children.

Author Lee Child takes pains in every one of his books about his protagonist, Jack Reacher, to describe him as being a giant of a man, 6-5, 245 lbs. He is described as so imposing a figure that whenever he walks into a room, people stare in awe. So for the millions of fans of Childís books, to even conceive of a man as short as Tom Cruise, who is 5-7 on a good day, playing Jack Reacher is as incongruous as Marilyn Monroe playing Abraham Lincoln.

While a movie should stand on its own, apart from the book from which it may be derived, still it is a bad decision to cast somebody who is not anything like the man tens of millions of readers have come to know and love. When they were casting Gone with the Wind (1939), virtually everyone who read the book pictured Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. If producer David O. Selznick had cast somebody like Jimmy Stewart (already an MGM mainstay) as Rhett instead of Clark, people would have been so disappointed that itís unlikely that the film would be remembered as one of the greatest and most popular of all time. In fact, Gable was reluctant to take the part because he felt he could never live up to the expectations of those millions of people who loved Margaret Mitchellís book. He did take it, however, and he fulfilled every expectation.

This is not a bad movie. Itís a typical Reacher story in which he is virtually alone against the world with enormous forces against him. He takes himself into a deep hole which seems impossible for anybody to survive.

During a telephone conversation he takes a shine to Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), an officer who succeeded him in his position with the army, so goes to Washington, D.C. to see her, only to discover that sheís been arrested. Naturally, Reacher feels he needs to take on the entire Army to rescue her and to find the bad guys who are orchestrating everything, which begins a chase that ends up in New Orleans.

Cruise is a good enough actor that if this were just a film about somebody named Jack Smith, it would be a good actioner. But seeing little Tom Cruise taking on four big bad brutes at the same time stretches credulity to the breaking point, despite the Hollywood magic of camera angles and such that make Cruise seem bigger than he really is. Itís not the box that 5-5 Alan Ladd had to stand on to kiss some of his costars; itís a lot more subtle than that. Still, the bottom line is that Tom is no Jack Reacher, and that alone comes close to ruining the movie. We can only hope that author Lee Child didnít commit his entire franchise to Cruise and that the next iteration will have someone who faithfully represents the Reacher who appears in all the books.