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There is a particular kind of movie that I enjoy. They are solid entertainments, usually featuring actors who may be a little past their commercial prime but still firing creatively on all cylinders. They tend to have modest budgets (which these days means in the $50 million range), not a ton of special effects, and a fair amount of plot-driven action (as opposed to gratuitous violence).

In recent years, these movies generally have starred Liam Neeson, though actors such as Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan have found homes in similar vehicles.

There are two such movies in theaters right now - one of which works very well, and one that doesn't.

The Accountant isn't a pure version of the kind of movie I enjoy, if only because star Ben Affleck is a hot commodity right now. But as a solid drama about a high-functioning autistic man who makes his living cooking the books for a variety of criminal enterprises, The Accountant does exactly what it needs to do. Affleck is solid in the title role, able to capture the man's inner life as well as the high risk world in which he is able to find some sort of professional solace.

The movie strings together several plot lines that unfold simultaneously, and does so efficiently, with strong supporting performances from the likes of JK Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow and the wonderful Anna Kendrick. And there's even a neat little plot twist that I didn't see coming, and I usually have a pretty good radar for these sorts of things.

The Accountant isn't a perfect movie, but it works well, and does exactly what it is designed to do.

I wish that I could say the same for Jack Reacher: Never Goes Back, a sequel to the 2012 Jack Reacher that was the first film based on the highly popular series of Lee Child novels. The first film was a model of the genre film, but this new one simultaneously tries too hard and yet not hard enough.

The plot, wildly simplified from the novel, has to do with Reacher trying to help an Army Major who he feels has been unjustly accused of treason. There is, of course, a conspiracy at work, and loner Reacher is the only one who can unravel it.

The problem with the movie is that it feels like I've seen it dozens of times before - from the requisite scenes of Cruise running (which he does in pretty much every movie he's in) to the New Orleans finale that offers no surprises. And Cruise, who has tons of charm even if you;re not a big fan, seems to be acting at every moment - his scenes and reactions all seem calculated, not real.

Now, part of this may be because the books' Jack Reacher is consistently described as a hulk of a man - 6 foot 5 inches, maybe 250 pounds, heavily muscled and with blonde hair. Cruise is none of these things, and so he seems entirely focused on acting tough - he's so tense that his whole body seems clenched. (For the record, I don't worry about such casting decisions. Humphrey Bogart was a lot smaller than the Phillip Marlowe described in the Raymond Chandler books, and Daniel Craig physically does not embody the James Bond of the Ian Fleming novels. But they're both so good that the descriptions of the novels don't matter. Cruise isn't.)

I'm thinking that if they make another Jack Reacher movie, they ought to recast it with an older, wearier actor. Liam Neeson, maybe.




That's it for this week. have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!
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