Review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Ex-Army guy Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) hopes to meet up with the MP officer he’s been flirting with over the phone for a while. However, when he gets to Washington DC, he finds out that Maj. Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) has been arrested for treason. Knowing this can’t be true, he uses his special set of skills to bust her out of military prison, and they attempt to figure out what on Earth is going on. Meanwhile, Reacher also finds out that he may be the father of a moody but artistically-inclined teen (Danika Yarosh), and he seeks the girl out. Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany and Robert Knepper turns up as military men.
I don’t know how the flat and uninteresting “Jack Reacher” managed to merit a sequel, but here we are with this 2016 Lee Child novel adaptation from director Edward Zwick (“Glory”, “The Last Samurai”, “Blood Diamond”, “Love and Other Drugs”) and his co-writers Richard Wenk (The remake of “The Mechanic”, as well as “The Expendables 2” and “The Equaliser”) and Marshall Herskovitz (“The Last Samurai”, “Love and Other Drugs”). It proves no real upgrade in quality, and is probably even worse. At least the first film had an enjoyably sinister turn from director Werner Herzog. This one doesn’t even have any notable names beyond its star, unless you’re crushing on Robin Sparkles. Perhaps a ‘Cruise Production’ dictates he’s the only A-list star allowed on set now. And trust me, this film needs an injection of charismatic supporting players, much as you’ll be somewhat familiar with the faces on show here. The colourless villains are especially problematic, as they’re rendered invisible alongside the undeniably charismatic Cruise.
Although the film shamefully speeds through the relationship-building between Reacher and his twenty years younger co-star, the central mystery and Reacher’s personal issues seem quite promising. Unfortunately, both plot strands play out in the exact most boring and predictable manner possible. That tends to happen when you only recognise a few people in the cast and two of them are our protagonists. When you find out exactly what’s going on with the baddies here you’ll feel like you’ve woken up in the Dubya Bush era all over again. Really? This shit? We’re still doing it? How could Cruise have signed on for such pedestrian plotting?
I also think Ms. Smulders is slightly miscast, I don’t know why she keeps turning up in action-oriented/tough chick roles. It’s not her thing, though she tries her best. At least she’s better than the constantly surprised-looking Rosamund Pike in the first film, who was either full of Botox or was having a hard time not acting like she was completely aroused by Cruise (and no, it wasn’t an acting choice. It was in all of her scenes all of the time). Speaking of attraction, why set up a romantic angle at the outset only to barely pay lip service to it for the rest of the film? Pitiful writing. Meanwhile, young Danika Yarosh may be one of the worst actresses I’ve ever seen. The only thing that kept me awake here was Cruise’s brutal dispatch of the occasional bad guy. That was fun, the film otherwise isn’t.
Nothing from the script, to the performances, or direction is memorable in this action-thriller that is as flat as its predecessor. The action is really good, but not nearly enough to save it. Good thing Cruise has that other, vastly superior franchise to fall back on.