Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Directed by: Edward Zwick.
Written by: Richard Wenk and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz based on the book by Lee Child.
Starring: Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher), Cobie Smulders (Turner), Danika Yarosh (Samantha), Aldis Hodge (Espin), Patrick Heusinger (The Hunter), Holt McCallany (Col. Morgan), Madalyn Horcher (Sgt. Leach), Robert Catrini (Col. Moorcroft), Jessica Stroup (Lt. Sullivan), Austin Hébert (Prudhomme), Robert Knepper (Gen. Harkness).
The Jack Reacher who is the star of Lee Child’s best-selling book series (20 novels and counting) is 6’5 and a huge, imposing figure. For the second time now, he is played by Tom Cruise, who is only 5’7 – which would seem to mean Cruise is miscast. However, the opposite is actually true – Cruise is perfectly cast as Jack Reacher, as the character falls right into Cruise wheelhouse of characters who grimly determined. Grimly determined to do what you may ask? Well, everything that they do. Reacher is not a complex character – he’s a former Military Police Officer, who has a moral code that is black and white – and if you’re on the other side of that code, he has no problem killing you. How he lasted so long in the military, and why he isn’t in jail should be a mystery – but it’s not one you ask when you’re reading a Jack Reacher novel (I’ve read 5 or 6 of them – although which ones, I’m not sure I could tell you – they were in my pre-Goodreads day). The novel are interchangeable and easy reads – the type of novel I enjoy spending two days reading between heavier novels. The first film in the series – simply titled Jack Reacher (2012) was a very good adaptation of the series – Cruise was great, and he had a supporting cast that included Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo and Werner Herzog as the villain. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the film was fast paced and fun, if ultimately unremarkable (although it did lead to last year’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation directed by McQuarrie, which was great). Unfortunately in the sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, everything –aside from Cruise – is just a little less effective than the first time around. The plotting feels lazier, the supporting cast isn’t memorable, the action by-the-numbers. As a time waster, it does the job – but not by much.
The story this time involves Reacher going to see the person now has his old job in the military police – Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who he has been flirting with on the phone for months, only to discover she’s been arrested for espionage. Reacher knows that she’s innocent – and sets out to prove – eventually breaking her out of jail, and heading out on the run with her and Samantha (Danika Yarosh) – who may or may not be Reacher’s long lost daughter (don’t ask – long story) to prove not just her innocence, but now his – as he is now wanted for murder himself. Of course, they are really targets of the kind of vast conspiracy that only works in the movies.
You really have to admire Cruise, who at 54, is still willing to throw himself into any action sequence imaginable, and fully commit to movies that others would see as little more than a paycheque and phone it in. Cruise doesn’t do that – he goes into this film full bore, and the reason the film works so well is because of Cruise’s performance – he anchors the film with his movie star charm like few actors can. Yes, I hope one day Cruise tries to do something more daring again – another Eyes Wide Shut or particularly, another Magnolia – but for now, he does this type of film better than anyone, so why complain?
The problem with the movie is that co-writer/director Edward Zwick is probably the wrong choice for the material. Zwick is mainly made for middlebrow, “prestige” fair like Blood Diamond, Defiance or The Last Samurai – although when he teams up with another movie star – Denzel Washington – he can make some pretty good movies like Courage Under Fire and Glory. That’s Zwick’s wheelhouse. Here, doing a low rent, action sequel, he is simply out of his element. This Jack Reacher has no sense of humor about itself – and the cast surrounding Cruise just isn’t up to his level.
I saw Jack Reacher: Never Go Back on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when there was nothing else playing, and nothing else to do. For that type of film, its fine – it will hold your attention for a couple of hours. But as I walked out of the film, I couldn’t help but feel just a little letdown – I wanted something just a little bit more from the film. Cruise delivered – not much else did.