Reacher reaches, finds Hallmark sentimentality and TV crime thriller predictability.
I found myself chanting ‘blood from a boot’ in my theater seat as I anticipated the start of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Yes, that’s how excited I was to witness the surprising return of Tom Cruise’s take-no-prisoners/take-no-sh*t former military police investigator. Unfortunately, Never Go Back never does go back to the violent charm (if there is such a thing) of the first film. Instead, an overly predictable plot and forced sentimental subplot strip the young franchise of the addictive macho humor and Taken-esque one-man-army action that brought it off the pages of author Lee Child’s work into cinemas.
The film begins with a character-establishing scene for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) that has no strong connection to the rest of the movie, and it was ruined by the movie trailers. So, off to a rough start! Very shortly after, Reacher is pulled back into investigative action when his contact back in the military, Maj. Turner (Cobie Smulders), is suddenly arrested for espionage. Then there’s a mysterious girl, Samantha Dayton (Danika Yarosh) who has some connection to the spiraling mess, including a familial one. As expected, there are a few factions of military personnel and weapons contractors in hot pursuit…some with violent intentions! And so Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is half mediocre wild goose chase and half mediocre spy-ish drama. The one consistent characteristic throughout the film is, indeed, its mediocrity.
And, there were a few red flags signaling this: 1) The sure-handed action director Christopher McQuarrie was replaced by less-sure-handed dramatic director Edward Zwick. 2) Supporting stars didn’t turn out for the sequel. The first Jack Reacher had Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, and Rosamund Pike. Never Go Back has the talented Cobie Smulders only. 3) There are three screenwriters, including the director. This is usually a bad sign. 4) Was the first one REALLY so successful at launching a new action hero franchise that this one had to be put into production with the aforementioned flags up and waving? The answer is a solid but arguable ‘no’.
But again, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back flails around in its messy mediocrity. The lighting and editing is bad, the dialogue feels overly basic and stereotypical. The twisted humor from the first film is only sporadically inserted here and it’s noticeably forced. Then there’s the annoyance of seeing yet another modern-day thriller featuring (supposedly) covert operatives running around in broad daylight firing their weapons in super conspicuous black trench coats and black boots and black gloves, which is just…tiring at this point. Lee Child’s series of books surrounding the Jack Reacher character extends beyond 20 installations. Maybe it’s ironic that the subtitle of just the second movie is ‘never go back’. Were the filmmakers trying to warn themselves?
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back opens in theaters today, 10/21.