Synopsis – Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.
My Take – The original 2012 film was a fairly effective action thriller because it refreshingly summed up different elements of an old school thriller. The mystery was decent, the characters were engaging, the antagonist was enigmatic and considering the genre it even produced occasional timely humor. While the film may not be considered as one of the best of its genre, the presence of the awesome Tom Cruise garnered the film a respectable $218.3 million box office on a budget of $60 million, I guess an enough reason to green lit a sequel. Surprisingly, this sequel is quite different from the first one. The while the 1st film was a quiet and slow thriller. This one’s completely opposite. Which isn’t completely a bad thing as it’s always throwing something at you, both good and bad, necessary and unnecessary. It’s loud and brutal and wants to be heard and demands your attention but doesn’t really reward you for it. This sequel is an odd mix of thrilling and inert: It’s entertaining enough, and the fight sequences are heart-pumping good, but the pacing is sometimes glacial and the plot predictable. Without a doubt, the leads keep the film from going completely off the rails. Say what you will about Cruise, but he’s as charismatic as ever and therefore compelling. If you’re a die hard Jack Reacher fan, then you’re going to love this film. If you’re a fan of mindless action films in general, then you’ll certainly like it. But keeping in mind the 1st film, you expect the sequel to be a bitter smarter, especially considering the fact that this is Tom Cruise’s first sequel outside the Mission Impossible franchise, you expect the film to rise over its predictable plot. The only reason the film falls a little short compared to the first, is due to the writing. The dialogue isn’t bad, but it is bland. I suppose it was to the credit of writer/director Christopher McQuarrie as to why the first film stood out as well as it did. Surely this script needed a punch-up writer on board to fix things. While I did enjoy the film very much, their were certain sections of the film, which could just not be overlooked.
Based on a series of books written by author Lee Child, the story follows Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former US army Major, who as drifter has been solving cases for the Military police all around the country. After busting a corrupt sheriff’s office in Oklahoma, Reacher finds himself convinced by commanding officer Mgr. Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) to return to Washington DC to go on a date. Upon his arrival, Reacher finds that Mgr. Susan Turner has been arrested on charges of espionage. Believing strongly that Turner is being setup, Reacher doesn’t hold back in solving the mystery and taking out those who would stand in his way. Crossing paths with the military police himself, Reacher soon finds out that the corruption runs deeper than he first thought. When faced with not only the dilemma of Turner but also the possibility that he may have fathered a daughter, Samantha (Danika Yarosh). Reacher must fight two concurrent battles. The three are forced to go on the run and, with limited resources on hand, try to find out the truth so they can clear their names. With mind and body under attack, Reacher stops at nothing to exonerate Turner and provide protection for his possible daughter. Now, if I felt the Christopher McQuarrie directed 2012 film was strong enough despite its flaws, I think I can say the same for this one as well. I think the first one was more of Tom Cruise playing a more impenetrable character, whereas you get him only slightly more grounded this time around. While the film started out a little strange and off-putting, it all un-raveled into a great finale. The film is a good sequel, yet doesn’t quite live up to the thrill-ride of its predecessor. If you are in the mood for a good old-fashioned military conspiracy action drama, then look no further. Although the film is very well produced, there is a flaw in that it is apparent that Reacher wants to ‘reach’ further and delve deeper than the superficial plot allows for. In my opinion, this film followed a bad trend that is rising in action film sequels, where the main character is attempted to be given a much deeper persona, while also trying to be the same person from the first film, yet it comes out in a very odd, strange blend of who we knew from the first film, and who this new identification is. It was troubling to have to accept this new introduction to the main character, when we have already been identified with him from the first film. Evidence of this is in his dialog that suggests that he wants to be a more dynamic individual who is capable of love and devotion but gets stuck being the action hero all the time because violence is the only thing at which he excels.
One of the most prominent themes in the film is the contrast between high intensity fight scenes and deadpan humorous family drama. By including contrasting elements, the film provides a real opportunity to love the protagonists and hate the antagonists. Another flaw of the film comes in the form of Samantha, who is ‘presumed’ to be Reacher’s forgotten daughter. The introduction of this character really drags the film down since she only serves to be a feisty teenager and a catalyst for tension by the time the climax rolls around. Director Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs, Blood Diamond) does his best to fill the gap Christopher McQuarrie left but fails to do so. The film would have been a lot better with McQuarrie on board. The story was weak and incoherent at times. The villains lacked motive and there were plenty of things that were left unexplained at the end. Nevertheless, as I mentioned before the film, despite its shortcomings, is quite entertaining. The action (for the most part) has been amplified since the last film. You see arms, legs and even necks being broken which utterly makes you flinch. Even Jack Reacher himself proves to be human when you see him take some serious lashes throughout this film. For someone is his 50s, I give Tom Cruise a lot of credit for pushing the sheer physicality of Jack Reacher. However, I was equally impressed by the antagonist of this film, who simply goes by the name of ‘The Hunter’ (Patrick Heusinger). Every fight in the film is surely entertaining as much as it it brutal, so viewers beware. There is an awesome chase and fight sequence on Bourbon street in New Orleans for the climax of this film that really leaves you feeling like some part of your body is broken. For a female lead, Cobie Smulders really holds her own and boys does she know how to take a punch. There are so many cool things about this film yet it still feels like a step back from the first in some way. I suppose the cleverness of the script and the sense of it being a gripping mystery/thriller is what’s missing. Don’t get me wrong, director Edward Zwick did as good of a job as far as directing an action film based on the material he had to work with. Tom Cruise definitely displays some of the best acting of his career in this installment of the Jack Reacher series. He does an excellent job of communicating the difficulty in balancing both the defensive and offensive in terms of protecting his “family” and providing empathetic nurture. Cobie Smulders, best-known for playing Robin in How I Met Your Mother and Maria Hill in the Marvel franchise, looks absolutely beautiful, but she has virtually no chemistry with Cruise. Good thing she’s more than just the romantic interest here, playing a woman as tough and self-reliant as Reacher. She absolutely stole the show and left me quite impressed. Aldis Hodge (Leverage) has a pivotal supporting role and he did pretty good. Danika Yarosh & Patrick Heusinger are alright. Robert Knepper Is wasted. On the whole, ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ offers the right amount of entertainment with Tom Cruise’s solid action-star turn yet falls short in comparison to its predecessor. Give it a watch if you are looking for a mindless action thriller.
Directed – Edward Zwick
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 118 minutes