Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
Release Date: October 21st, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Edward Zwick Actors: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Holt McCallany, Madalyn Horcher, Patrick Heusinger, Teri Wyble, Aldis Hodge
x-Major Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) hitchhikes around the country investigating crimes and injustices that pique his interest. After wrapping up his latest mission to bring down a corrupt sheriff’s office, the nomadic former serviceman sets his sights on the headquarters of his old army unit and the woman now in command, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). But as soon as he arrives, paramilitary personnel begin following him and he’s eventually arrested on charges of espionage. When Turner’s lawyer is murdered and Reacher is accused of the crime, he breaks into and then out of a military prison with Turner in tow. Forced to go on the run, the unwitting partners must work together to prove their innocence and uncover the sinister forces desperate to eradicate any trace of the two soldiers.
“Two things are gonna happen in the next 90 seconds…” Reacher calmly asserts during his first spoken line. The cold open that unfolds is actually quite dull, considering that a fistfight has already transpired outside, and the two aforementioned actions include a phone call and an arrest without incident. But this setup reinforces the nature of the Reacher character – one who is always calm, in charge, and smarter than his confronters. He may take some hits (indeed, Reacher is on the receiving end of continual kicks and punches), but they never prevent him from winning out. Wittily – yet dismissed by the scene itself and the cameraman’s scrutiny – the end of that opening sequence is marked by Reacher hitchhiking down the road, with his thumb up, his white t-shirt splattered with blood, his face covered in bruises and scratches, and his knuckles still bleeding. But he’s nevertheless picked up by the very first vehicle that comes along.
The biggest problem with “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is the lack of anything new for this character. Like Bond or Bourne, his adventures are becoming routine; he’s a vigilante tough guy with a soft spot for the fairer sex and a penchant for breaking the bones of evildoers. There’s no extra character development or additional details about his past; the audience is supposed to know what he’s capable of and how he will heroically strive for justice while staying just outside the law. It’s the kind of uninspired script that refuses to dispense with dialogue so laughably trite that even slight variations turn into jokes about their own overuse (such as a pursuing agent barking the orders, “I want to know how they like their eggs. I want to know their favorite flavor of ice cream. And I want it yesterday!”). So everything that follows is correspondingly generic – from a frame-up to spy games to gaining fugitive status to donning disguises to grand theft auto. The project is primarily an action movie, which means that fight scenes, destructive chases, shootouts, and emotionless assassins garbed in black are alternated onscreen with predictable regularity, though none of them present anything different to wow viewers. And the mystery at the heart of it all is so inconsequential that it doesn’t even lead to the climax; once accusations of treason are cleared, the finale shifts to the showdown with the primary antagonist (a lunatic henchman who is motivated solely by the urge to kill).
This second Jack Reacher thriller attempts to complicate the typical action picture formula by introducing an equally formidable female companion for the hero – one who remains just distant enough that they may be shirtless or in a bed at the same time, but never clearly romantically involved. Added to this component is a daughter figure (Danika Yarosh as Samantha) to complete an offbeat family unit, wherein Reacher (and Turner) participates with parental comedy when not protecting Samantha from being carved up by the Terminator-like villain (who is so stereotypical that he isn’t even given a name). The father/daughter dynamic is amusing at times, but it’s utilized mostly as a vulnerability for the hero, which makes Samantha more annoying than significant (she spontaneously transforms from a moody silent kid to a talkative extrovert, quick to poke fun at Reacher). When the film circles back to resolutions between Samantha and Reacher, it feels misplaced, or like a different movie altogether; genuine emotions or melodrama don’t mix with the ordinariness of this action-minded plot.
– The Massie Twins