When I first saw 2012’s “Jack Reacher” I expected a less fun version of Tom Cruise’s ‘Mission Impossible’ movies. I knew there would be action, and it was based on a book series, so there could be an overstuffed story as well. What I got and didn’t expect was a bad-ass Tom Cruise with an edgy script, great action, creepy villain, and a film series I could look forward to as much as the ‘Impossible’ films.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” takes place either before the last film or after, it never really says and it doesn’t really matter. I get the feeling the novels don’t have a through-line, just Reacher hitching from place to place and getting in adventures. Here Reacher is visiting a Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) at her base, which used to be his base. When he arrives he finds that she has been arrested and not too long after he is implicated in her crimes as well. So not being the kind of guy to wait and see what happens, Reacher escapes custody with Turner in tow and they have to stay on the run from the military, and the bad guys attempting to kill them all while trying to solve a mystery and clear their names.
Unfortunately this Jack Reacher film lacks almost everything that made the first film work. There is no edge, no hard-core performance by Cruise, no intense action scenes, a terrible and convenient script, and worst of all, a kid sidekick (Danika Yarosh). In short this film sorely misses writer/director Christopher McQuarrie who gave us the first Reacher film. When I heard he was not behind the camera I was worried, but still hopeful because of his replacement, director Edward Zwick. His last collaboration with Cruise was 2003’s “The Last Samurai” which was a really great movie. I thought we would get a different Jack Reacher for sure, maybe one where we would see some inner demons, a more conflicted character, and a deeper story. But no, it is all typical action movie fare, complete with cliche after cliche, from the predictable dialogue, to the lame humor, and the overly telegraphed climax. Even the forgettable villain is an after thought here.
I wanted to say something clever utilizing the subtitle of the film about how they Never should have Gone Back, but everyone will go there, and it would be sad, but this film deserves repetitive reviews with the common nature of this kind of action film. It reminded me of the Conan film series, “The Barbarian” is dark, with intense action and crazy good with memorable lines. “The Destroyer” is by comparison a lesser film, with ridiculous characters, terrible villains, and a story with no spine. They just need to go back to the drawing board with Reacher, there are plenty of books to choose from, but most importantly they need McQuarrie for the next one, if not then they should never go back. Dammit.