Poor Jack Reacher. After 15 years of brutal battles with some of the most evil people on the planet, he's about to be brought down by a religious fanatic and a pretty girl with poor judgment.
Between them, they may have ruined the prospects of what should have been the next big movie franchise - the adventures of a loner hero with the best qualities of Indiana Jones, James Bond, Bruce Wayne and Jason Bourne.
Reacher is the protagonist of a series of crime-action-thriller novels by English author Lee Child, which have sold 40 million copies around the world. Last year, Child revealed he had sold the movie rights to his novel One Shot, and that tall, burly, calm Reacher would be played by … short, wiry, hyperactive Tom Cruise. It was the most spectacular piece of miscasting since George Lucas gave the role of teenage Darth Vader to Hayden Christensen.
At the time, I joined a public outcry, but over the ensuing months, Reacher fans had come around to a position of grudging acceptance. We recalled how powerfully Cruise portrayed a professional killer in Collateral, in 2004. We didn't mind the way he climbed the skyscraper in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. And we learnt the screenwriter would be Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar in 1996 for The Usual Suspects.
Three weeks ago, the studio released a trailer for a film now retitled Jack Reacher (One Shot presumably suggesting insufficient firepower). It looked as if the script had retained the terse dialogue for which Child is renowned and Cruise seemed as wry and implacable as Reacher should be. And as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, Cruise's modest size makes it easy for bad guys to underestimate him, only to be surprised when he unleashes hell. Maybe it was going to be all right after all.
But then two weeks ago, Katie Holmes filed for divorce and leaked to the media her fears that Cruise might put their daughter in a brainwashing camp, and all our doubts came back. Forget the height problem. Child's Jack Reacher would never be a Scientologist - except to expose it.
The slogan on the back of Child's paperbacks used to say: ''Jack Reacher - women want him, men want to be him.'' Would anybody now say that about Tom Cruise? Apart, perhaps, from the 2163 Australians who listed themselves as Scientologists in the latest census?
Instead of star quality, Cruise now possesses anti-charisma. Jack Reacher will flop, and they'll probably never make another movie from a Lee Child story.
This is what needs to happen: the studio must lock One Shot in a safe, cast somebody else as Reacher and quickly turn two other Child novels into films. Then, in 2015, when Cruise's weirdness has faded from the public mind, he can release One Shot and gain vindication by showing that he did the role better than his replacement.
So who should get the role? For me, there are three clear candidates: Viggo (Aragorn) Mortensen, though he's a bit old; Jeremy (Hawkeye) Renner, though he's about to star in a Jason Bourne spin-off; and our own Sam Worthington, whose American accent improves with every movie.
In the end, the answer is as simple as ABC - Anybody But Cruise. Even Katie Holmes could play the role: she has both the public sympathy and the height advantage.
To discuss the perfect Reacher, and other monumental miscastings, go to smh.com.au/opinion/blog/the-tribal-mind