Jack is back — Reacher that is — in this second in a series of films based on author Lee Child’s bestselling books chronicling the adventures of the former elite Army MP who now operates on his own. Modest in ambition and execution, this franchise might seem to be a kind of poorer cousin to star Tom Cruise’s blockbuster Mission: Impossible movies, but I happen to find the Reacher films just as satisfying in their own way, an old-fashioned throwback to bread-and-butter action thrillers that stars like Steve McQueen, James Garner and Paul Newman used to do all the time. I can see the appeal of the character for Cruise, who gets to show that, even though he has age lines in that movie star face, he still is up to the kind of bare-bones fights and chases this sort of thing requires.

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As I say in my video review above, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has the sort of title that might be catnip for critics about to launch a Cruise missile against the thing. But not only do I think Paramount should have gone back to this series, I also believe this edition tops the original 2012 film which grossed more than $200 million worldwide. Now that’s not a giant number for a superstar vehicle these days, but its not trying to compete on that level. This film simply presents a well-told tale under the sharp direction of Edward Zwick, who previously teamed with Cruise on The Last Samurai and is treading into the action-thriller waters for the first time.

The film also has the advantage of the terrific Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) in the key role of Maj. Susan Turner, a successor to Reacher who is being framed for espionage and determined to uncover the real bad guys behind the mysterious murders of several soldiers who used to be under Reacher’s command. This brings Reacher reluctantly back to the forefront as he knows how to fix things — usually with a fist. Turner resists his assistance, but the two pair to take on The Hunter (played with evil elan by Patrick Heusinger) who is out to get them and provides the perfect macho match for Reacher’s visceral talents. Complicating matters is a teen girl, Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who comes into Reacher’s life and could have more of a connection to him than we think.

But the real gist of all this is an excuse for lots of fights, chases and nonstop action — all adding up to an immensely entertaining movie that works just fine on every level of this well-worn genre. The relationship between Reacher and Turner is nicely played thanks to the comfort level and chemistry exhibited between Cruise and Smulders. Ultimately though it it Cruise’s show, and he rules with real authority as the kind of loner who rides into town, does his thing, and rides out. For the audience it is lots of fun while it lasts. Nothing more, but nothing less.

Producers are Cruise, Don Granger and Christopher Quarrie. The screenplay is by Richard Wenk and Zwick and his longtime writing partner Marshall Herskovitz. Paramount produced with Skydance and releases it Friday.

Do you plan to see Jack Reacher: Never Go Back? Let us know what you think.