Tom Cruise has at least two film franchises going right now. Top Gun 2 is yet to be even started on, so that one does not count. As I said though, Cruise has two film series running. One is getting even better with each sequel as is the case with Mission Impossible. The other is only two films in and already is getting tired and sterile as is the case with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It is an efficiently crafted thriller, but strictly by the numbers in its story and ultimately disappointing. I was someone who thought the first film was just okay, so maybe I am being a bit hard on these films. Oh, well. Such are the snares of my chosen profession.
The film stars Tom Cruise as the title character, a sort of drifting avenger who journeys across the country righting wrongs and searching for some kind of peace within himself. He is a noble warrior, a crusader whose past military service is a mystery but it is one he seems to want to forget. Why isn’t this guy on a beach somewhere, then? After a clever opening, Reacher decides to head to Washington D. C. and visit with his contact and friend, Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). By the time her gets there, she has been arrested and charged with murder and is subject to a speedy trial by a military court. Since there is no doubt that she is innocent and the that the fix is in, Reacher and Turner are on the run. Reacher is also being framed for the deaths of a Colonel and Turner’s lawyer. Thrown in for good measure is a young girl named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who may or may not be Reacher’s long lost daughter.
Most of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is pretty standard fare. Lots of running with some impressive action sequences but nothing that really is awe inspiring. The daughter storyline is a waste of time. Ms. Yarosh is a fine actress but she is not given much to do except get into trouble that require the two heroes to bail her out. There is one scene in a hotel room in which Turner shows Samantha a form of self defense that you know will be used in the climax. I was quite surprised to find that this film was directed by one of my favorite director’s, Edward Zwick. He has directed some real classics like Glory, Courage Under Fire, Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai and the under appreciated The Siege. These are beautifully shot films with immeasurable depth, timely and with well defined characters. Most of the characters in Jack Reacher are cut outs of countless other characters in much gutsier thrillers than this.
This is not to say there is nothing here to entertain you. Cruise brings it in his performance, as always. He is the consummate performer. He arrives on set, practiced and ready to go and it shows in his films. Cobie Smulders is fine as Major Turner and Danika Yarosh is decent as the alleged daughter. The multitude of bad guys that are thrown at us, though are serviceable but forgettable. There is not one that stands out, so you know that Reacher and friends will be able to take them out soon enough. The problem is with the fairly routine story and lazy script (based on the Lee Child novels) penned by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. The dialogue seems to be recycled from numerous movies-of-the-week and in fact, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has a very “cable movie” feel to it. However, the action sequences are decent and Henry Jackman’s score is interesting enough. But this film reeks of “been there, done that before”.
Not to worry, though. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is not going to ruin anyone’s career and at a matinee price, most will look past some of the tired clichés that are plentiful, here. But for the talent involved, I wanted something more ambitious and challenging. What we get is a pedestrian and routine entry into a franchise already wheezing towards the finish line. Hopefully, the next entry will be something worth watching. And can we get Jack Reacher a car for the next film, please?
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – **3/4 out of 5
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Rated PG-13 for language, violence and gore
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Run Time is 118 minutes
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.