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A REACH TOO FAR: JACK REACHER NEVER GO BACK

Tom Cruise embodies the meaning of “movie star” better than anyone else working today. He still looks great and effortlessly commands the screen, especially in a vehicle like this that plays to his strengths: lots of running and physical action, a fair amount of flirting but no sex.

Jack Reacher is an ex-military officer who lacks only a cape and spandex costume to qualify as a superhero. He’s a one-man Army who can take on three or four brawny bad guys at a time and pummel them all, walking away with barely a scratch or sign of a struggle.

That can be fun to watch for a while, but this sequel to 2012’s Jack Reacher doesn’t have any other tricks up its sleeve. Reacher and his military contact in Washington (Cobie Smulders) wind up on the run together, and the fight-and-move-on formula wears awfully thin. Introducing a girl who may or may not be Reacher’s teenage daughter (Aldis Hodge) adds an interesting wrinkle but even this subplot succumbs to cliché. The supporting cast doesn’t offer any treats or surprises, as the earlier movie did.

That’s all the more disappointing given the fact that Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was directed by the estimable Edward Zwick, who shares screenplay credit with longtime producing partner Marshall Herskovitz and Richard Wenk. Zwick is too intelligent to have made a stupid movie, but that is small consolation.

Presumably there is enough material in Lee Child’s long-running series of Reacher novels to fuel a slew of sequels if this one is a hit. But I lost interest in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back far too soon to care what happens to this character again.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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