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'Jack Reacher' is as disposable as an airport paperback

REVIEW: It's hard to watch "Jack Reacher" without thoughts of the Newtown school shooting flickering through your head. The film is based on one of Lee Child's books about Reacher, a military vet and drifter turned quasi-homicide investigator, and it opens with a sniper taking aim on numerous innocents, including a nanny and a 6-year-old girl.

It's not the film's fault that what might have just been a plot device two weeks ago carries fresh pain now, and it's kind of a shame. Reacher is a fascinating character. He takes buses, buys all his clothes at thrift stores, notices the year on a quarter that's part of evidence. He's the smartest and toughest guy in any room, and you want him on your side.

As he prepares for a parking-lot fight with a bunch of lunkhead toughs, he describes to them what's about to happen. "The last two guys? They always run," he tells the crew, and of course we know we'll see that scenario play out exactly as Reacher predicts.

As fans of the book series know, Reacher is supposed to be a six-foot, five-inch giant of a man. And as fans of movies know, Tom Cruise is ... probably a foot shorter. Again, not Cruise's fault -- you get the feeling that if he could bulk up a foot in height for a role he'd do it, just like Matthew McConaughey dropping 30 pounds for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club." But there are scenes where Reacher's size would affect how he's perceived by other characters, and Cruise's pretty boy looks give off a different vibe altogether.

The plot of "Jack Reacher" matters less than the development of Cruise's character. There's a gulag-hardened Russian (played by legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog!) who chewed off his own fingers (he's much scarier in the book), family squabbling between the blonde D.A. and her father, and Robert Duvall as a gun range-owning Marine who comes to Cruise's rescue. There are some sharp lines ("Weird meeting you," an attorney tells Reacher). 

But overall, this movie won't stick in your head. Like its hero, it'll drift in for a few hours and then disappear from theaters and your memory without a trace.

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