Tom Cruise is a bit of a problematic leading man for many people. For that many it has less to do with the quality of his films or his acting in them but much to do with his personal life, a topic a little more salacious and irrelevant than one would suppose. Yet in recent years he has carved himself out a niche as an action star in clever action films. His hand in producing them has led to a steady output of Mission Impossible film and the surprising Jack Reacher. Yet his return to that was not a given due to the less than stellar box office takings. Here is the sequel nonetheless and it’s disappointing. With only hints of what made the first one good, something went wrong. Find out more in our review.
Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a former military police officer who has become something of a drifter. In his moving from town to town he becomes involved with a case where human trafficking is taking place on military property. During the process of helping the military authorities, he meets and flirts with (over the phone) Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). He makes Washington and Turner his next stop only to find that she has been jailed for treason and espionage.
The first Jack Reacher film was a clever film with a great sense of fun to the way it did action. Optimistically, Jack Reacher Never Go Back starts that way too. The opening shot is of the wreckage of a fight at a café, police and witnesses look on, while one man calmly sits on a stool, simply waiting and of course it’s Jack Reacher. If you watch the trailer you can see how it plays out. It promises so much that it never delivers on.
Jack Reacher Never Go Back then settles into a pedestrian military thriller from that point. No overly exciting twists and turns just an investigation that does the typical conspiracy by shadowy military and contractor types looking to make a fortune in the only way they know how, doing illegal stuff.
Still it’s a bit like a Jason Bourne film, you don’t come for the plot or the drama but for the action. If you’re coming simply for that, Jack Reacher Never Go Back hits it beats solidly yet unspectacularly. The action is impactful and up close and is for the large part solid. You know Reacher kicks ass but you still it’s missing anything to make it stand out too.
One wonders if the change of directors between films hasn’t had some sort of impact. Edward Zwick who is better known for wartime epics seems like an odd choice here. He has a steady hand here but nothing. Christopher McQuarrie was a far more innovative choice and the original was the better for it.
It seems some of the performances and script writing is to blame here also. Tom Cruise whether you love him or hate him is generally a charismatic kind of lead. But here seems understated and dour. Jack Reacher is not meant to be a wise cracking hero, a man of few words but here is just grumpy. It might have been wise to let Cruise be a little bit more like Cruise.
Cobie Smulders is fine for what she’s given to do. The script decides to get into feminism and sexism at the most inopportune times. Her character as a major in the military would surely have had to face adversity but when there is a sense of urgency to a situation and Jack and her charcter decide to discuss well it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, situationally anyways. In fact I think Laura Dern kind of put that whole thing to rest with a line over twenty years ago in Jurassic Park.
One cast member and even storyline that shines through quite well is the introduction of a possible daughter for Reacher, Samantha. Played by Danika Yarosh she manages to provide a little bit of emotional pull. She also manages to get herself into trouble by doing ridiculously dumb things constantly. Yet her ark gives some nice emotional grounding to the film.
Jack Reacher Never Go Back Review Cheat Sheet
Jack Reacher Never Go Back is a disappointment by any measure especially if you compare it with the original film and the potential of its cast. Lacking a sense of fun or cleverness it ends up being only mildly entertaining with its sporadic tough as nails action. Maybe one best left for a Saturday night rental.
+ Starts with promise.
+ Action is solid.
+ Reasonably affecting story about Reacher’s daughter.
– Flat performance by Cruise.
– Feminism at the most nonsensical of times.
– The story is really bland.
-Lacks the fun and cleverness of the original even concretely it’s hard to idenfity what is missing.