REVIEW: “Jake Reacher: Never Go Back”

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Don’t let its deceptive title fool you. You most certainly can go back. Just look at Tom Cruise, the 54 year-old ageless wonder. 2012 was the first time Cruise took on the role of ‘tough as nails’ ex-military cop Jack Reacher. Now four years later he ‘goes back’ for a second round of high energy, low monotone Reacher-style action.

Edward Zwick directs the film and has some history with Cruise. The two previously worked together on the 2003 epic “The Last Samurai”. Needless to say this is a much different picture. It follows the basic blueprint of the first movie – a no-nonsense, tough guy protagonist, some big action, and a military mystery through-line. Think of it as a big screen NCIS with a larger budget and Tom Cruise running the show.

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Cruise’s Reacher is still a drifter who does his own thing but occasionally lends a hand to the military police he left behind. In doing so he develops an over-the-phone friendship with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) who now runs his old unit. Upon arriving in Washington DC to meet her for the first time, Reacher discovers she has been relieved of her duties and arrested for espionage.

Sensing an obvious set up, Reacher busts out Susan and the two fugitives set out to find out who wants her dead and why. Along the way Reacher learns he may be the father of a teenaged daughter (played by Danika Yarosh), a convenient little story thread that adds some manufactured vulnerability to our unstoppable hero.

That sarcasm you may sense in my tone can be attributed to the fact that I’m still struggling with how I feel about the film. Broadly speaking I do like it and feel many are being overly critical. It is competently made by Zwick and it delivers exactly what audiences will expect. Cruise is never the problem with his movies and he does good here as well. Smulders is even better as a tough, hard-nosed woman who is a far cry from the normal action movie damsel in distress. She is a genuine action heroine and the one true refreshing element.

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But at the same time, it’s hard to see this as anything more than a ‘one-and-done’ viewing. Despite the efforts of Cruise and Smulders, things never rise above predictable and/or formulaic. There is nothing about the story that will catch you by surprise. And aside from more action and a new subtitle, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” doesn’t offer much new for the series as a whole.

Writer Lee Child has written 21 books as part of his Jack Reacher series. “Never Go Back” is based on his 18th novel so there is still plenty of material should they decide to make a third movie. I would go see another Reacher film since I have found entertainment in both of the these installments. But unless they are willing to shake up the formula, Jack Reacher 3 will be more of the same – entertaining enough at first but nothing that will stick with you past that initial viewing.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

3 Stars

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9 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Jake Reacher: Never Go Back”

  1. Ahah spot-on first paragraph Keith! Tom Cruise certainly goes back to many of his franchises, but man this sequel is so formulaic, it’s kinda boring to me. I thought the first movie is a bit more interesting, and I love the cast there of Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo. What a coincidence they both are starring as husband and wife in A United Kingdom now.

    • It is so by-numbers. I gotta say it never bored me, but as I mentioned I knew leaving the theater that I probably wouldn’t watch it again. Just too predictable. I think it was the daughter storyline that hurt it most.

      • True. What about Smulders? Did you like her character? It seems like Cruise is doing this a lot recently – using a strong female presence to downplay his macho persona. We also saw it in the last MI film.

      • I like Smulders but overall the relationship between her and Cruise is just odd. It’s true, Cruise has been hiring lots of strong actresses for his action films, I have no problem w/ that, just wish the story is more intriguing.

  2. Great review. I also enjoyed the first installment, but am a bit hesitant on this. I’m not so sure if I want to fork out $10+ for more of the same. Maybe I’ll wait till it’s available for rent.

  3. Great thoughts, Keith. Not a novel reader, but I’ve been hearing from fans that this isn’t the novel they would have selected to get the green light in the series for the silver screen.

    I can probably see why. The story just ain’t interesting.

    • That’s interesting. I haven’t read the novels either but I can see where the fans are coming from. The movie is pretty generic but not void of entertainment. Just not enough of it.

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