The Movie Waffler New Release Review - JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK | The Movie Waffler



Reacher goes on the run with a friend falsely accused of treason.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Ed Zwick

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Robert Knepper, Aldis Hodge

The first Reacher movie just about turned a profit, so it came as a surprise to most of us when a second was announced. On the evidence of the resulting sequel, Cruise should have taken the advice of its prophetic title.

If you've seen the initial trailer for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, you've essentially seen its opening scene. As with James Bond movies, this sequel opens with the climax of a previous adventure. Well, not quite; it's more of a resolution, that classic action movie final scene in which the hero walks off into the distance amid an array of sirens. Never Go Back is full of references to the titular hero's previous daring scrapes, which makes you wonder why we're not watching a movie about one of those, as the story here, based on the eighteenth novel in author Lee Childs' hit series, is so lifeless it makes you wonder just how uninspiring the previous seventeen books must have been.

We learn in this opening sequence that Reacher has cracked the case of corrupt cops running an illegal immigration scheme, aided through several long distance calls by Washington DC based Military Police Officer Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). Having hit it off over the phone, Reacher heads to DC with the intention of taking Turner to dinner, but when he arrives in the US capital he discovers his date has been detained pending an investigation into treasonous activities concerning drug-running from Afghanistan.

When Reacher breaks her out of jail, the two go on the run in an attempt to find the truth and clear Turner's name. Along the way they become straddled with Samantha (Danika Yarosh), a 15-year-old who may or may not be Reacher's daughter.

With Cruise now aged 54, yet looking better than most 34-year-olds, Hollywood seems unsure of how to use the megastar. In the Mission Impossible franchise he's morphed into a modern day Buster Keaton, with the highlight of each new installment of the series being whatever crazy stunt Cruise pulls off without the aid of CG, be it dangling from the world's tallest building or hanging out of a plane as it ascends into the clouds. The actor's traditional strength was as a romantic lead, but with Hollywood refusing to cast him opposite any actresses within his age group, his recent films have seen him posited as an oddly sexless figure, a living Ken doll. Never Go Back sets us up for a romance between himself and Smulders, but it never transpires, and there's a palpable lack of chemistry between the actors, as though they're on a particularly uncomfortable blind date. In one scene, as they hide out in a hotel room eating takeout, they discuss what might have happened after their dinner date. "We'd go back to your place," Reacher smirks unconvincingly, somehow unaware that the pair are in a hotel room, and seated on a bed in that very moment - it's now or never buddy!

Most of Cruise's recent female co-stars have been young enough to be his daughter, so it seems like a nice twist to pair him up with a character who may actually be his offspring, but the script never does anything interesting with this dynamic, and Yarosh is straddled with a cardboard sarky teenage stereotype.

Despite a budget in the range of $100 million, Never Go Back resembles a two part episode of a middling TV action show. The military police setting gives it the feel of NCIS, the pinnacle of small screen blandness, or its unwatchable '90s predecessor JAG. Action set-pieces are non-existent save for a few punch-ups, and Zwick really isn't the man to pull off such visceral close-quarter brawls. A fight in a kitchen seems to have been inspired bythe climax of The Raid 2, but it's embarrassingly amateurish when compared to Gareth Evans' expertly choreographed actioner.

The first Reacher movie just about turned a profit, so it came as a surprise to most of us when a second was announced. On the evidence of the resulting sequel, Cruise should have taken the advice of its prophetic title.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is in cinemas October 20th.