Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, 2016.
Directed by Edward Zwick
Starring Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Robert Catrini, Madalyn Horche and Robert Knepper.
Ex-Army drifter Jack Reacher finds himself drawn into a military conspiracy when he attempts to protect disgraced Major Susan Turner, suspected of espionage…
Not everyone believes in Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, Lee Child’s hard as nails, ex-Army drifter who helps the little guy, kicks arse and moves on. It’d be nice if Never Go Back, the sequel to Christopher McQuarrie’s first adaptation of Child’s books, put paid to that scepticism, because on the whole Cruise carries this solid, no frills, entertaining picture with brick wall aplomb. There may not be more of a divisive star in Hollywood than the Cruiser – you either love or hate him. For me, it’s hard by the end of this to see past him as Reacher, as he skilfully dials down his natural, all-American shit eating grin and presents a stony, edged, brutish front in Edward Zwick’s follow up which over the course of this story is challenged by the presence of femininity in his life in two different quarters. Beyond that, it’s the kind of story Child is known for – corrupt officials, nasty mercenaries and lots of hard boiled pulp. Zwick thankfully does it just as well as McQuarrie did.
It starts by giving Reacher quite an iconic opening, seemingly about to be arrested for beating merry hell out of four guys, only for the tables to wonderfully be turned on a slimy small town Sherriff, and Zwick wastes no time in getting this adaptation of Child’s book underway. Cobie Smulders proves her leading lady chops as disgraced Major Susan Turner, framed for espionage by a military contractor who swiftly start attempting to destroy all the evidence of their military corruption – and Reacher, purely after a shag in all honesty, ends up right in the middle of it, teaming up with Turner to ultimately clear both their names and take down the evil contractor company. Simple plot, with the added complication of newcomer Danika Yarosh’s precocious teenager Samantha along for the ride – who may or may not be Reacher’s long lost daughter he never knew about.
Cue lots of awkwardness as a hugely dysfunctional family set up on the run is formed, with both Reacher & Turner unsure how to ‘parent’ the wayward teen while keeping them all out of the crosshairs of pantomime bad guy assassin Patrick Heusinger, who may as well have a twirly moustache to go alongside his black clad ensemble. If Never Go Back is one thing, it ain’t subtle. That’s fine, as it provides enough well staged suspense, with few dull stops for breath, to carry you along even when it all gets a bit melodramatic and silly. Cruise can beat up bad guys with the best of them too and while the years are just, finally, starting to catch up with him, if anything that helps Reacher feel more weathered and badass, even if he’s on the whole a bit indestructible and you never truly feel he’s in danger of being bested.
If you’re looking for an action movie that reinvents the wheel, Never Go Back isn’t for you. Ed Zwick gives you exactly what’s on the tin, just like Lee Child’s books do – a tough but slick action thriller with a semblance of edge, surrounding a larger than life action hero in Tom Cruise & Jack Reacher who delivers in the kickass stakes. Even though it’s never truly dramatic and largely predictable, it’s got plenty of humanity and heart around the toughness–and yes, cheese–to make it likeable, entertaining and genuinely exciting with a good sense of pace. Happily would enjoy a film or two more of Reacher. Would be nice if he actually reached for a few more things next time though.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★