I tried for two days to write something about Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, but I couldn’t get it up. I blame myself, not the film. Because I had an usual response that I couldn’t quite explain in the right way. Now I’m on an Atlanta-bound flight (heading for the Savannah Film Festival) and I have to get this done. My basic thought is this: “Why isn’t it okay for a rote, second-tier throwaway action flick to just deal the cards in a rote, second-tier, no-big-deal way?  As long as it’s reasonably well done?”

At least this is a less-is-more Reacher film, not quite in the vein of Chris McQuarrie’s 2012 original (which was better) but not what the two trailers had indicated, which was a Reacher T-1000 film. At least it’s operating on a higher level than a typical bonehead Dwayne Johnson film.

Sorry but there’s something in me that relaxes when a film  announces that it’s not up to anything special and is just planning to bang around for 110 minutes or so. It’s a B movie.  If the attitude is right and the craft levels are okay, I don’t have a problem with that.

I could see what this was and sense the lackadaisical attitude, but I didn’t hate it. I can’t imagine how anyone could. I was mildly engaged, never irked. And I could feel the audience settling into it. (And I know what it feels like when a film isn’t working and the audience is getting restless.) It isn’t anyone’s idea of clever or knockout or originally conceived (the Rotten Tomatoes score is only 39%), but…I don’t know, maybe I’m turning soft or something.

The only thing that elevates it is slumming Tom Cruise, but that’s okay because even in a film like this he has that thing going on, that presence, that vibe. Say what you will about Cruise but he always has your attention when he walks into a room, and now that he’s 54 and a little bit heavier and even a wee bit saggy in a more-or-less-acceptable way, he’s got a little something extra going on, a slight attitude of acceptance that life is closing in and narrowing his options and that sooner or later he’ll have to stop making hammmerhead action flicks and…who knows?

HE (speaking to Cruise): How much are you worth? More than $200 millon?
Cruise: Oh my, yes!
HE: Why are you making nothing but grandslam franchise action films? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?
Cruise: The future, Mr. Wells! The future.