Jack Reacher, former military policeman and current detective/drifter has one quality that makes him great at his job: He is better than anyone at everything. Reacher is not the first action hero to possess this quality; James Bond comes to mind, Batman, the Robert Downey, Jr. iteration of Sherlock Holmes, Tom Cruise’s other franchise hero Ethan Hunt, but something about Reacher’s all-around superiority makes him intolerable, likely it is his smug confidence. He knows, when face-to-face with a thug, or gang of thugs, exactly how the fight is going to go down and frequently informs his opponents exactly what misfortune is about to befall them. The character is a dick and not in a fun way. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is not a very good movie, also not in a fun way.
Sequel to the similarly not great Jack Reacher (2012), Never Go Back improves upon the first film in some ways, but for any improvement there is a downgrade. The female lead here, Cobie Smulders’ Major Turner, is more kick-ass and proactive than the doormat played by Rosamund Pike in the first Reacher, but the thickly accented villain is not played by Werner Herzog (easily the most interesting aspect of Jack Reacher). Mostly Never Go Back is a largely a retread of the first film, which inexplicably did well enough to warrant a sequel, so why not? Again, the titular hero finds himself investigating the case of a wrongfully accused military person only he believes to be innocent, this time finding himself pursued by his former Military Police colleagues as he absconds with the accused (Smulders) and sets out to clear her name, gradually uncovering a plot that never becomes interesting.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is ostensibly a character-driven detective movie; it relies upon the audience’s inherent interest in watching Jack Reacher do anything that it won’t matter if the plot is entirely uninspiring. The hook for this movie is Reacher’s forming of an ersatz family with those with whom he is on the run, the aforementioned Major Turner, a potential romantic partner (Cruz and Smulders have stunningly little romantic heat) and girl who may or may not be his daughter (Danika Norosh), who is supposed to be a loveable hard-luck teen with a ‘tude but is mostly just annoying. Rounding out the cast is the assassin (Patrick Heusinger), a sadistic vet, who, according to the lip service paid to the character, is supposed be the flip side of Reacher’s righteous coin, but never really registers as such.
This is a boring movie. Tom Cruise does not bat 1.000 when it comes to the quality of the films in which he stars, but he is almost never the problem with the bad ones. This is true of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, but Jack Reacher is as uninteresting a character as Cruise has ever played; none of Cruise’s supernatural charisma is brought to bear. Director Edward Zwick is a fine craftsman and he does not prove otherwise here; the movie is coherent but it has no flair, nothing to make it more than a rote thriller and it’s not even good at being a rote thriller, none of the twists come as a surprise. Never go back.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Paramount) Director: Edward Zwick
Writer: Edward Zwick, Richard Wenk, Marshall Herkovitz
Cinematographer: Oliver Wood
Editor: Billy Weber
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Aldis Hodge