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"Jack Reacher" never grabs on

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Unlike some, I don't hate Tom Cruise. It seems like most of the distaste for the man comes from his couch-jumping period, where every single one of his public appearances was more bizarre than the last. Some people might dislike him based on his film work, but it seems like his creepy Scientologist vibe is the thing that really does him in.

A couple of performances aside, Tom Cruise is always playing Tom Cruise. He's a personality actor, which is fine. Relying on your personality to get you through a performance can be much more difficult than heavy makeup work, like what Johnny Depp seems to do for every role now. Tom Cruise is no Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but not many actors can come close to that anyway.

Tom Cruise definitely went the route of an action film star, but unlike Bruce Willis, he commits fully to everything he does onscreen. He hangs off buildings and airplanes, he runs hard and throws himself into fights with a fearlessness that's damned entertaining to watch. Whether you like him or not, Cruise works his ass off on set, almost desperately wanting to entertain people for their $12.

More importantly, Cruise usually picks interesting, diverse and exciting filmmakers to collaborate with, so even his worst movies tend to be interesting misfires. Over his career he's worked with Spielberg, Kubrick, The Scott Bros., Zeffirelli, Coppola, Scorsese, Stone, Howard, Reiner, Pollack, De Palma, Crowe, P.T. Anderson, John Woo, Michael Mann, Redford, Brad Bird and many other excellent filmmakers.

For "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," he re-teams with his "Last Samurai" director Edward Zwick. Even though Zwick has been responsible for great movies like "Glory," and "Legends of the Fall," he's cashing a paycheck for "Reacher." The script (that he co-wrote) doesn't do him any favors, and everything is so flatly shot and lit that even the very few action scenes don't generate much excitement.

Jack Reacher is a character from a series of books by Lee Child about a former Army major who roams the country doing odd jobs and helping people in trouble. In the books, Reacher is a 6'5'' giant who can take on anything, so Cruise's initial casting was a bit of a joke. The first Jack Reacher movie had everything going against it but somehow ended up being a fun, action throwback.

"Never Go Back" has an interesting and timely premise (corrupt private military contractors), while also giving Reacher some nice emotional beats to play. If Zwick had been more animated in the director's chair and had added a sense of momentum and intensity then the film might have worked, but instead it comes across as airless and dull.

Cruise still sells the character completely and makes the most out of what he has to work with, but he deserves better here. The last "Mission Impossible" movie was surprisingly great, so my expectations were maybe a bit unrealistic for this one, but I never thought I would be bored and restless. The film feels more like an episode of a USA network series than a real movie, one that I might watch again, but will more likely just forget.

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"

Dir. Edward Zwick

Grade: D+

Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16

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