Heed Jack Reacher’s latest advice: Never go back

Movie | Conventional action movie sequel has few thrills or surprises
by Bob Brown
Posted 10/22/16, 04:01 pm

The Jason Bourne series set the standard for thrillers featuring an ex-military loner operating in the post-9/11 era. While the original Jack Reacher film nearly met this standard, its follow-up, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, falls considerably short. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) shares Jason Bourne’s almost superhuman ability to defend himself with or without weapons against great odds, but he lacks the emotional vulnerability that gives Bourne charisma.

Reacher’s friend, Maj. Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), is jailed on espionage charges shortly after soldiers under her command were killed in Afghanistan while investigating the disappearance of decommissioned weapons. A paramilitary outfit responsible for the murders and black market materiel sales is trying to cover its tracks, assassinating anyone connected to Turner. Para Source hit men beat her lawyer to death and send a team into the jail to knock her off. Reacher breaks her out just in time, and the two go on the lam. When the bad guys target 15-year-old Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who might be the daughter Reacher never knew he had, Reacher trades flight for fight.

“It’s time we stop running and start hunting,” he tells Turner.

Set in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, Never Go Back (rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language, and thematic elements) runs through a series of classic action-flick scenarios. It’s all there: the foot chase along an airport tarmac, fisticuffs among clanging cookware in a restaurant kitchen, the 6-on-1 warehouse brawl (in which the bad guys—suddenly playing by Marquis of Queensberry Rules—take turns charging Reacher), and the machine gun firefight behind metal dumpsters on a wharf. When Reacher’s not calculating how he can take down a corrupt general and his flunkeys, he’s ignoring Turner’s advances and learning on the fly how to parent a huffy teen girl.

Except for the closing scene, the film’s attempts to heart-tug (cued by soft music) have little pull, mainly because Reacher is such a bland character. Fans of the original film would do well to take the sequel’s titular advice and—I have to say it—never go back.

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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Comments

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Sun, 10/23/2016 04:42 am

    Thanks for this. I was wondering. But I also wonder if Reacher was played by someone other than Tom Cruise the film might have been better. I fail to see wy he gets these roles. The Reacher books do get old after a while but the print medium does allow you to see things in your mind. "The pictures are in your head." [From XM Radio's blurb about their book radio station - Now gone...]  Tranlating that into a Tom Cruise movie just doesn't do it for me in general. I will heed your advice. 

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