Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review: Never Go Forward, Either

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review
out of 5

Jack Reacher has had quite an interesting history. The books series by Lee Child has over 20 installments of novels, novellas, and short stories, and is beloved worldwide by action-fiction fans. When Tom Cruise was originally cast as Reacher for 2012’s Jack Reacher film, purists were up in arms, as Reacher was described as tall and blond — two things that Tom Cruise is not. But the film went on change critics’ minds as Cruise nailed the role and the film made over $250 million worldwide. Now, the sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, looks to extend that box office fortune, but the critical love may be coming up blanks this time out.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back takes the plot of the 18th book in the series (the first film was actually the ninth book) and brings Jack (Cruise) back to Washington, D.C., to meet up with his replacement, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) with whom he has flirted with over the phone for weeks. When he gets there, he finds that Turner has been arrested for espionage, and Colonel Morgan (Holt McCallany) has taken her job. Reacher digs a little deeper and finds a conspiracy that includes missing weapons, murdered soldiers, and drugs, all tied to a private security outfit ran by ex-military personnel, headed by the retired General Harkness (Robert Knepper).

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

Reacher’s personal life also comes into play as he learns that he may be the father of a 15-year-old girl, Samantha (Danika Yarosh), and that she too may be a target of the mysterious unnamed “Hunter” (Patrick Heusinger), who is working behind the scenes to make sure that the illicit business continues without interference by authorities, or by Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

Patrick Heusinger as The Hunter, a man who wants Jack Reacher dead.

The script by Richard Wenk, Marshall Herskovitch, and Edward Zwick — who also directs — packs in plenty of action and macho one-liners, even from Smulders, who shakes off her How I Met Your Mother likability for something much more serious. In fact, Smulders is a bit vicious, especially in the third act, and her badassness makes for one of the Never Go Back’s high points. While there is copious amounts of gun play, Reacher is still prone to use CQC (close-quarters combat) and his bare hands to hurt his enemies, which is a nice change of pace from the constant shoot-em-ups that films like this tend to devolve into. Cruise does a wonderful job being a bad ass himself, but something just felt off here.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

It’s not a Tom Cruise film if he doesn’t run, and he runs throughout Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

In fact, that feeling of “just off” permeates throughout Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It’s as if the film is missing that one key component, or big audience grab, to escalate it into the upper echelons of the modern action film genre. The thing is, I can’t figure out what it is that is missing here. It has an adequate male lead in Cruise, a beautiful and dangerous female lead in Smulders, a cute, sometimes funny, most times in trouble “kid” in Yarosh, and a vicious, cold blooded villain in Heusinger, yet the ingredients don’t produce the desired end product. The cake comes out bland and tasteless, and I cannot reason as to why.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back could be the next film in another action franchise for the aging Cruise, but it tends to fall flat and dabbles too much in mediocrity. As the climatic third act was playing out, I began to wonder if this could have easily have been a TV movie on Spike TV, or maybe a short series on the Fox network, with a lesser known cast and smaller budget. If this is the segue into a new franchise, all parties involved will have to do better, or the series — and the beloved Jack Reacher character — will never go forward.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.

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