Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Review

jack-reacher-never-go-back

I have only read one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. It was gripping, well paced and featured a gritty, no-nonsense giant of a main character.

I wasn’t alone in my disappointment when I learned in 2011 that Tom Cruise was in talks to play Jack Reacher.

And then 2012’s Jack Reacher turned out to be quite good. Cruise delivered trademark but much-needed charisma and Werner Herzog proved an unlikely but effective casting choice as the main antagonist.

The level of worldwide takings, and the fact that the source material is so franchise-friendly, means it should come as no surprise that a sequel is gracing cinema screens this month.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back finds our hero embroiled in another military conspiracy, this time involving Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders).

Turner has been arrested for her suspected part in the deaths of two soldiers under her command. Major… sorry, ex-Major Jack Reacher smells a rat.

And wouldn’t ya know it, he’s right.

Just as Reacher undertakes to prove Turner’s innocence, his character gets lumbered with a sub-plot: a woman has come forth and claimed that Reacher is the father of her fifteen year old daughter, Samantha (Danika Yarosh).

Whether he believes the paternity claim or not, the bad guys sure do. So Reacher tasks himself with protecting Samantha at all costs.

Not an easy job with a villainous henchman (Patrick Heusinger) on his trail. So villainous that he doesn’t even seem to have a name.

For this sequel, the usually reliable Christopher McQuarrie has shifted to a producer role, with Edward Zwick taking up directorial duties.

Maybe coincidentally, or maybe not, this film is probably the one that fans feared the first time around.

To say that this is by the numbers would be an insult to the numbers. From the get-go, the film falls into a lazy rhythm of exposition-followed-by-action-sequence- followed-by-exposition-followed-by-action-sequence and so on and so forth.

For some reason, a lot of this seems to involve Reacher jumping onto buses at the last minute to evade the bad guys. Eco-friendly anti-automobile message or unimaginative writing? Who knows.

On the plus side, the pace is suitably zippy for an action thriller. But that’s also part of the problem: the film never seems to settle.

There is an attempt to build some substance around the father-daughter relationship. But come on: this is Reacher. Solitary, lone-wolf Reacher. Instead, Reacher forms part of an erstwhile renegade family through the film. It’s like the Brady Bunch meets the Bourne Identity.

Not that the supporting cast is bad: Leverage’s Aldis Hodge is good in his limited screen time as Espin, and Smulders proves herself quite the action heroine.

And, despite looking like she wandered off the set of a Gap commercial, Yarosh is believable as the potential offspring of walking toothpaste-advert Cruise. Or at least his interpretation of Reacher.

As for the antagonists this time around, suffice to say that even Jai Courtney would have been better.

It’s probably time to either let this franchise rest for a while, or reboot with a new lead.

The first film was perfectly acceptable. But Never Go Back? Maybe the studios should have heeded that advice.

Conor Brennan

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