Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

At Cinemark

(PG-13)

Grade: C

The previews for the Jack Reacher sequel paint a compelling collage of harrowing escapes and macho window smashings. Jack Reacher -- aka Tom Cruise -- is shown, in handcuffs, telling authorities that in a few moments he’ll be free and they’ll be headed for jail.

Promise kept.

Alas, the 120 seconds of trailers, expended all of the excitement found in the film. Minus those few thrills, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” descends into formula, eventually succumbing to a bad case of sequelitis.

Jack Reacher is the brainchild of British writer Lee Child. Reacher is a former military police officer who drifts around the United States hoping to be left alone, but inevitably ending up in the midst of a thrilling drama.

Child’s first book adventure, “Killing Floor” in 1997, won an award for Best First Novel, sending the Jack Reacher franchise into orbit. The 20th Jack Reacher book, “Make Me,” was published in September 2015.

In 2012, Hollywood jumped on board the Reacher bandwagon, selecting Tom Cruise to play Reacher. The choice was controversial since Reacher was described in the book as a huge man, more than 6 foot 5 inches tall and 250 pounds with big hands and a huge neck.

Cruise, about a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter, disappointed Jack Reacher’s many fans.

The latest edition of Reacher blends three overlapping stories into one odd whole.

First, of course, Jack Reacher must have a mission.

Reacher goes to DC to look up a former military colleague, who happens to be a pretty lady he appears to like. But the courtship will have to wait because the lady major has been arrested for espionage.

Sensing a set-up, Reacher sets out to unravel the conspiracy and free his friend -- presumably so he can ask her to dinner.

Meanwhile, Reacher is told he may have fathered a child a long time ago who is now a teenager. Curious, he decides to look Samantha up, perhaps to see if she has those Tom Cruise front teeth.

As Reacher gets closer to unraveling a deep dark military conspiracy, the villains ratchet up the pressure by hitting Reacher where it hurts -- by threatening the girl who might be his kid.

So we have a conspiracy and a romance topped off by those timeless questions: “Are you my daddy? Are you my daughter?”

At the center of this routine action thriller is, of course, Tom Cruise. To his credit, Cruise works hard in every role he plays. He doesn’t sleepwalk through forgettable roles.

But fans of the books had it right the first time: Cruise isn’t the right choice to play Child’s ex-military drifter. He’s better suited for the high-tech “Mission Impossible” films.

However, I suspect he was paid well.

Cruise is one of those $20 million actors who sometimes defers his salary in return for a slice of the profits. Hollywood insiders calculate he’s made more than $100 million on his biggest hits.

So not to worry. Even if we don’t buy tickets, Cruise likely will still afford groceries -- ramen, anyway.

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