The Regrettable Return Of ‘Jack Reacher’

jack reacher 2 thumbIt is a good thing author Lee Child supports the casting of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, the lead character in Child’s expansive book series, as there are still 18 more books to make up for this disappointing second feature. Following the goodwill created by the initial 2012 flick, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back finds Cruise out of his depth, given a poorly developed story full of clichés, stock characters and a general lack of excitement. Where Cruise’s previous collaborator, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, was able to match a serious mystery with some well-handled wit and mild commentary on gun culture, this Edward Zwick-directed entry truly seems to place Reacher in cruise control.


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As the film begins, Reacher, a former Military Police Corps Major-turned-drifter, finds himself looking to meet Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) for a date, only to learn that she has been arrested for espionage. Asking questions soon turns into further trouble for Reacher, as he and Turner eventually go on the run, with the addition of teenager Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter. The hunt is on, as Reacher and his new surrogate family unit will have to uncover the truth, before it’s too late.

2012’s Jack Reacher was not re-inventing the wheel, but it presented a mystery with a sense of personality. Sure, Cruise playing a tough guy can be a little hard to believe, but the film had fun in a meta sort of way to address it. There was also the presence of Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo and director Werner Herzog as an over-the-top villain. Couple that with assured direction that had fun with action (great car chase), but took the violence completely serious (the opening sniper sequence is chilling) and you have a solid mystery-action movie, featuring a big star.

So what happened here? Well, it is as if McQuarrie took all the flavor of this series with him. Never Go Back is a stripped down affair that comes up lacking in so many ways. Starting with the cast alone, one can admire seeing Smulders working her way up as the co-lead in a film with Cruise, but somehow there were no available character actors with stronger “hey it’s that guy” credits to their names to join in with Cruise this time around. Herzog is a tough (and strange) act to follow, but the best this film has to offer in regards to villains is Prison Break’s Robert Knepper and an unnamed, non-charming assassin played by Patrick Heusinger. Since when does Cruise work with direct-to-video-like restraints?

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Understandably, these Jack Reacher films are a lot cheaper than the Mission: Impossible movies, but it was honestly baffling to see Cruise, a star with plenty of creative input on his movies, go through such a by-the-numbers picture. Zwick is a talented director and capable when it comes to action (the previous Zwick/Cruise collaboration, The Last Samurai, comes to mind), but there is almost nothing here to separate this film from any generic action film (the introduction of ‘Reacher Vision’ doesn’t help). Even Cruise seems to be phoning it in, as he lets his eyebrows do a lot of the work for him and even shares some of his signature running scenes with other cast members.

There is also the nature of this Jack Reacher persona. While this Reacher is not 6’ 5” with a 50” chest like in the novels, there is a level of intelligence and no-nonsense wit that makes him enjoyable to watch, given that he’ll likely win any sort of battle, physical or intellectual, that he encounters. Sadly, while we see Reacher ahead of the curve, the main mystery being presented features nothing but obvious reveals. It is great that this series wants to rely less on action and more on the procedural nature of things. However, there is never much tension presented here, which is only hurt by the extended finale that involves chases and fights that are essentially beside the point, given how things wrap up fairly early.

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One could try to speak up for giving Reacher a female co-star who is also up to fighting off bad guys and not having to be directly involved in some sort of contrived romance. Again, Smulders does what she can, but has to deal with a number of scenes arguing for why she has just as many reasons to be involved as Reacher does and how she doesn’t want to be bossed around, only to be bossed around by Reacher anyway. Yarosh’s presence as “rebellious teenager” character is just what it sounds like, which means she basically exists to have quippy remarks and be held at gunpoint, so she can be saved.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back belongs to a certain era, but even if this throwback action flick came out in the middle of the 90s, it would hardly be a memorable adventure. That is such a shame, as I am happy to root for Cruise and these genuinely enjoyable films he continues to make. Whatever happened this time around, however, feels like a stall in between better projects more than anything. Here’s hoping the star finds a way to go back to something more worthwhile, whether it’s drama, big blockbuster stunts or another Jack Reacher novel that has something much more interesting to say.

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4 Responses to “The Regrettable Return Of ‘Jack Reacher’”

  1. Brian White

    I’m speechless. You gave this a lower score than ID4: Resurgence! Maybe I’ll rub my eyes some more and wake up from this dream 🙂

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    I’m speechless to find Cruise doing sub-par work, while the Ouija prequel is better than it has any right to be.

  3. Brian White

    haha I need to see this Ouija prequel…it was on same night as Jack Reacher screening for me

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    It was for most cities not LA/NY. Everyone made the wrong choice.